Metro Manila starts pilot face-to-face classes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — More than 2,000 students in 28 public schools in Metro Manila have started the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes on Monday, most of them in kindergarten to Grade 3 and senior high school, amid the declining COVID-19 cases in the capital region.

"Actually, most of the public would find it counterintuitive that we start with kindergarten to Grade 3, they say it would be more difficult to discipline them but this is actually a recommendation from our public health experts that we consulted including the Department of Health," Education Usec. Nepomuceno Malaluan told CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday.

Nepomuceno said based on their analysis, students from these year levels have shown "greater resilience" in terms of the duration and severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

RELATED: DepEd allows NCR public schools to hold F2F classes 

Nepomuceno added that the assessment on the pilot implementation would play a key role in the possible expansion of face-to-face classes in all levels. The DepEd's report will come out by yearend, he said.

"In the first phase, NCR did not qualify because of the alert levels. It was only later on when the COVID situation improved that it was made a possibility to start with NCR," he said.

In-person classes were opened on Nov. 15 in areas of the country deemed at low-risk for COVID-19, starting with some schools in Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Northern Mindanao, and Zamboanga Peninsula, among others.

Nepomuceno said social distancing protocol must be enforced in classrooms, with a class size reduced to up to 16 students only in the elementary level. Blended learning is also in place but learning activities that can be maximized in an in-person setting are promoted.

While the current framework advocates "shared responsibility" among parents, schools, and localities, Nepomuceno admitted they will have to consider classroom availability once all levels are allowed to go back to school.

For the meantime, kindergarten students would spend only three hours in the classroom daily, while those in the higher levels may take at least four hours. Morning and afternoon shifts are also in place to accommodate more learners while ensuring their safety.

The DepEd's assessment period for the pilot run of face-to-face classes will be until December 22, 2021.