September 21, 2021 – About 100 public and 20 private schools in minimal-risk COVID-19 areas are set to participate in the pilot limited face-to-face classes of the Department of Education.

The announcement came on Monday following President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s approval of the Department’s proposal of the pilot implementation in consideration of education quality, mental health, and economic issues amidst the pandemic. The rest of the basic education schools in the Philippines will continue with blended distance learning.

“Ang face-to-face na konsepto ngayon iba sa face-to-face na kilala natin, na everyday nag-face-to-face ang teacher, ang kabataan. Sa lahat na bansa, walang daily continuous face-to-face. Talagang ini-schedule ito nang husto at strictly monitored pati yung kilos ng mga bata,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said.

The agency is finalizing the official list of participating schools but already shortlisted possible participants from the initial of 1,900 that met the safety and facilities requirements. Private school participants will still undergo screening.

Emphasizing that this initiative is a shared responsibility, the Education chief reiterated that local government units (LGUs) where nominated schools are located and parents of learners must submit a resolution and written consent, respectively, for the pilot to push through.

Schools that will partake in the pilot should also pass the safety and readiness assessment of the Department and adhere to the strict joint guidelines set by DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) and other protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) and other organizations specializing in children’s health.

The operational guidelines on the pilot implementation of face-to-face learning modality provide health and safety standards in terms of personal protective equipment, sanitation, detection and referral, ventilation, contact tracing, and quarantine, coordination, and contingency measures.

From the guidelines, Secretary Briones explained that class size will be reduced to 12 learners for Kindergarten, 16 learners for Grades 1 to 3, and 20 learners for technical-vocational students, while class sessions will only run for a maximum of three hours for Kindergarten to Grade 3 and four hours for Senior High School.

The pilot face-to-face classes will also be conducted every other week, with participating schools ensuring that class schedules are arranged equitably so that all qualified learners have the opportunity to physical classes. The endeavor will be subject to close monitoring for two months and undergo risk assessment as other countries do.