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Senators call for face-to-face classes pilot test in low-risk areas

Seven senators on Monday filed a resolution calling on the Department of Education (DepEd) to immediately launch pilot tests of localized and limited face-to-face classes in over 1,000 public schools nationwide.

In Senate Resolution 668, Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Joel Villanueva, and Sonny Angara stressed the need for the DepEd to conduct the pilot tests, which would stringently follow  mitigation measures and health protocols.

"To avert a prolonged learning loss and minimize other potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that learners will suffer, the DepEd needs to immediately launch its pilot testing of localized limited face-to-face classes in the identified 1,065 schools in low-risk areas," the resolution read.

According to the senators, the pilot tests will allow the DepEd to gather evidence to guide its framework for the safe reopening of schools through a "risk-based assessment" to identify, analyze and reduce the risks affecting each school.

Gatchalian earlier said that a January 2021 journal article published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that even as US schools opened for face-to-face learning, there was little evidence that community transmission of COVID-19 increased.

The pilot testing will also guide the DepEd to set specific standards and health protocols to reopen schools safely, and will lead to the resumption of feeding programs for individuals affected by the pandemic.

"The pilot testing program must be a shared responsibility of the DepEd, the LGUs, the parents or guardians, and the community as a whole, to ensure that our investments in education will not be put to waste, and put the education system back on its tracks in due time, and leaving no one behind," the resolution read.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed Senate Resolution 663 seeking the reopening of schools for in-person classes so that the country's educational system could catch up with Asian neighbors.

Sotto insisted “there is no substitute to face-to-face classes, which is probably the best way to arrest the decline in (education) quality” in the country.

Back in December, President Rodrigo Duterte recalled his order allowing a dry run of face-to-face classes in January 2021 in select areas amid reports of a new COVID-19 variant in the United Kingdom. — DVM, GMA News