October 08, 2021 – Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones has emphasized that the upcoming pilot implementation of face-to-face classes underwent a series of consultations with child health experts and other involved stakeholders to ensure a safe return to schools.

Secretary Briones shared that DepEd proactively conducted thorough consultations with the Department of Health (DOH), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID), and concerned groups to draw up the guidelines for the reopening of schools amidst the pandemic.

“Maraming humiling na mga magulang at LGUs sa DepEd kung maari ba silang mag face-to-face classes and we sincerely understand their position. It is why we precisely we pushed for the crafting of the guidelines for the limited face-to-face classes together with our child health experts,” Sec. Briones said.

Last September 27, DepEd and DOH signed the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) for the Pilot Implementation of Face-to-Face Classes in Basic Education after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte approved its conduct in 120 schools on September 20.

The said JMC features four key pillars, namely (1) Safe Operations, (2) Teaching and Learning, (3) Including the Most Marginalized, and (4) Wellbeing and Protection, and provides guidance on safe school traffic management, protective measures and safety procedures, psychological support, and contingency plan, among others.

On Wednesday, DepEd revealed the initial list of 59 schools that are considered located in minimal to low-risk areas after passing the granular risk assessment of DOH. It will be increased to 120 depending on the weekly assessment report of DOH.

With the guidelines anchored on the Shared Responsibility framework, Briones also clarified that qualified schools must still secure the permission and consent of the concerned local government units.

Meanwhile, the participation of school personnel and learners will be on a voluntary basis. Learners who are qualified according to the guidelines must still provide signed consent from their parents before being allowed to join in the pilot.

“The Department’s utmost priority is still the safety of our stakeholders. Hinding hindi natin pipilitin ang sinuman para sumali sa pilot phase. Ngunit hangad ng DepEd na pagkatapos nito, mas magkaroon ng confidence ang ating mga guro at magulang para sa mga ginagawa nating aksyon upang dahan dahang ibalik ang face-to-face classes,” Briones said.

DepEd eyes a November 15, 2021 start for the pilot run.