MANILA, Philippines – No cases of COVID-19 have been reported so far in public schools participating in the pilot implementation of limited in-person learning, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Tuesday.
“Sa unang linggo po ng ating pagpapatupad ng pilot limited face-to-face ay wala po tayong naitalang kaso ng covid sa mga lugar na ito,” DepEd Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma said in a press briefing.
It has been a week since the department started the pilot testing of face-to-face classes in 100 schools in areas with low-risk classification for COVID-19.
The department, however, noted that some schools found it challenging to get students to strictly adhere to health and safety protocols as some children, especially those in kindergarten, tend to take off their face masks.
Others also tend to forget physical distancing as they interact with their classmates.
“Talagang hirap yung ating mga kindergarten learners na isuot yung kanilang mga maskara sa mahabang panahon, maya’t maya inaalis nung ating maliliit na mag-aaral,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said.
But the DepEd said such behavior is expected among children since they are not used to wearing masks for long periods, and they were not allowed to go out of their homes due to the pandemic.
“Dito papasok yung role ng ating mga guro na continuously magpapaalala sa ating mga mag-aaral at sa iba pa na talagang iyong social o physical distancing ang pinakamahalagang bagay para masegurong walang mahahawa,” Garma said.
The DepEd reported that out of 70,000 listed students, over 70 deferred their attendance to physical classes for having flu-like symptoms prior to the program’s implementation.
Briones said these students will not be asked to undergo swab testing.
“Ayaw naman nating i-swab yung mga bata e… We might trigger accidents sinabi ko na yan e tutusukin mo yung (bata), sisipain ka ng bata o sisigaw, wala na. we will create more trauma for the child and also trigger accidents,” she said.
The DepEd earlier said it has prepared a contingency plan with recommended actions for various scenarios, which range from where there is a suspected case presenting symptoms, to a scenario where there is resurgence of COVID-19 cases in multiple barangays. This sets the policy on when schools should impose a lockdown.
Aside from public schools, 20 private schools have also been selected for the program. They started their pilot face-to face classes on November 22.
More schools are expected to participate in the next phase of the limited face-to-face classes, including those in the National Capital Region, depending on the result of DOH’s risk assessment.
The expansion phase is slated to begin by March 2022, based on DepEd’s timeline. (with details from Correspondent Janice Ingente)