President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in areas with minimal risk of COVID-19 infection, Malacañang and Education Secretary Leonor Briones announced on Monday.
At a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said these areas will be determined by the Department of Health and the Department of Education, and that in-person classes will not be held on a daily basis but only "half a day every other week."
"Kelangan may suporta ng local government units sa pamamagitan ng resolution o letter of support at kinakailangan po merong written support and consent ng mga magulang," Roque added.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones welcomed the development, saying the limited face-to-face classes was approved by the President at 11 a.m. on Monday.
"This is wonderful, this is a great day tungkol sa edukasyon dito sa ating bansa," she said in the same briefing.
According to Briones, under the approved guidelines, Kindergarten classes will have 12 students while Grade 1 to 3 classes will have 16 students. Technical vocation classes, meanwhile, can have as many as 20 students.
"Para magkaroon ng space for distancing [So that there will be space for distancing]," she added.
Class from Kinder to Grade 3, Briones said, will last for three hours "maximum."
The limited face-to-face classes will initially cover 100 public schools and 20 private schools.
Briones said it would be the DepEd which will approve of the areas where the limited face-to-face classes will be held.
"Kelangan papasa sa Department of Education kung saan tayo mag-hold ng face-to-face classes," she said as reiterated Roque's earlier remark that that LGU approval is also needed.
Adjustment to the setup will be determined based on periodic risk assessments, the DepEd secretary said
"Kung safe ang pilot and it is effective then we will gradually increase. Pero ang mahalaga dito bantayan natin kung ano ang risk assessment. Pag may pagbabago sa risk assessment then talagang titigilin natin," Briones said.
Likewise, Briones said that teachers and school officials who are above 65 years of age will be allowed to participate in the in-person classes without requiring them to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We will not require vaccination because based on what we have gathered, a lot of them are fully vaccinated already under their respective local government units," she said.
"We are also preparing the pilot conduct of in-person cases in 100 public schools and 20 private schools, so the required number of teaching personnel is not enormous."
Briones said around 28 million students enrolled for School Year 2021-2022, higher than the 26.2 million recorded during the previous school year.
"Ito ay nagpapakita na nakikinig sila sa paliwanag ng ating department at tinatanggap nila ang strategy at approach namin, 'yung blended learning," she said.
Blended learning or part online learning and part learning through the use of printed modules.
Parents split on resumption
While several parents agree that schools should gradually reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some are still worried about their children's safety.
According to Ivan Mayrina's report on "24 Oras," some parents prefer face-to-face classes because their children are having a hard time listening via the Zoom calls.
"Gusto ko yung face-to-face kasi nahihirapan 'yong mga bata. Imbes kasi na 'yong mga bata 'yong nag-aaral, 'yong mga nanay 'yong nag-aaral eh. Kailangan din namin mag-load, eh paano kung walang load, paano na?" a parent said.
[I prefer face-to-face classes because the kids are having a hard time. Instead of the children learning, it's the mothers who are learning. We also need to get load. What do we do when there's no load?]
"Mas mainam na rin po 'yan kahit papaano kasi boring na boring na," another parent added.
[It's better because the kids are bored.]
Meanwhile, a father said he prefers online classes to lessen his worries for his children amid the health crisis.
"Kung kami nga hirap na hirap, lalo na po siguro kung isasama pa namin sa paglabas ang aming mga anak," he said.
[If we are already having a hard time, it would probably be worse if we include our children in those going outside.]
Some also worry that they will not be able to monitor their children while they are at school.
"'Yang mga bata hindi naman namin mababantayan 'yan eh. Sabihin na natin na oo, pagsasabihan sila. Kaya lang after a few hours, makikipagharutan na naman. Possible na magkaroon ng contact talaga," a mother said.
[We won't be able to watch them. Let's say we tell them to be careful. But after a few hours they'll start being playful. They're going to come into contact with each other.] — with Ma. Angelica Garcia/KBK/BM, GMA News