President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the proposal of the Department of Education (DepEd) to conduct face-to-face classes in areas considered low risk for COVID-19 despite the continued rise of coronavirus cases in the country.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones told Duterte in a meeting televised this morning that the planned physical classes will “close inequality gaps.”
“Because if we rely heavily on online learning, then you will have an equity problem for those who do not have access to digital equipment,” she said.
However, she acknowledged that physical learning will pose health risks, which is why it will only be allowed in low-risk areas or those under the modified general community quarantine.
The classes, which will start on Aug. 24 and last until January, will be conducted on a “case-to-case basis” and will depend on the advice of the government’s COVID-19 task force. Both the DepEd and the task force will also conduct joint inspections to assess the capability of the schools to reopen for physical learning.
“It’s not automatic [that if] you’re in low-risk areas you’re allowed to open. No, [the schools will] have to be inspected,” Briones said, without specifying when such inspections would take place.
Briones added that stringent health protocols would be implemented, which include discouraging holding classes in air-conditioned rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Public schools, which are mostly ventilated with electric fans, would not have this problem, she claimed.
In the meeting, the DepEd Secretary urged local governments to sanitize public schools and follow health protocols. Duterte approved Briones’ proposals.
Duterte ordered the postponement of face-to-face classes as early as May until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the DepEd is promoting the use of blended learning, which relies on the use of various media to teach children. However, critics have said that the method poses a challenge for both teachers and students.
To date, the country has 68,898 cases with 1,835 deaths and 23,072 recoveries.
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