DepEd eyes limited face-to-face classes in MGCQ areas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) – The Department of Education recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the possibility of conducting limited face-to-face classes in areas under modified general community quarantine.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Wednesday said limited physical classes, for up to 10 persons in a room, is the most feasible way if a student does not have access to blended learning modes.

“The students can access learning materials online, on radio, or on television. If they don’t have all of the above, we have what we called IBM or It’s Better Manual,” said Briones in the weekly Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) meeting.

The blended learning system for the Academic Year 2020-21, which was approved by the IATF-EID in May, requires the use of computers/tablets, radio, and television as learning modes for students in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The education secretary also requested to have more water supply in schools, so the students can regularly wash their hands and protect themselves from the virus.

Prospero De Vera, chairman of the Commission on Higher Education, supported Briones’ proposal of limited face-to-face classes, suggesting the first semester in the higher education classes should be focused on theory-based subjects, while the second semester should be devoted on laboratory courses or those which require fieldwork.

De Vera also cited Thailand, which placed plastic dividers in each classroom to promote physical distancing among students attending face-to-face classes.

“It is possible that we can do it here in the Philippines, De Vera said. "Maybe (the distance) should be more than one meter apart if needed depending on the school’s design."

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III endorsed the possible conduct of limited physical classes in MGCQ areas citing the slow pace of case doubling rate, low number of fresh and active COVID-19 cases, and adequate health systems capacity in these places.

Duque added Briones’ plan to put only 10 students in a room in the limited face-to-face setup is aligned with the physical distancing protocols of the national government.

He also recommended one entrance and exit in schools and the air-conditioning must only be at 26 degrees.

“All of these really favor in their proposition,” said Duque.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. reminded the DepEd to check first the configurations and proper implementation of minimum health standards in a school before giving the greenlight on the conduct of limited physical classes.

Briones assured the President the opening of classes will push through on August 24.