Roque: Face-to-face classes, once approved, may only be conducted for few hours

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — Should President Rodrigo Duterte approve the trials of face-to-face classes, they may only be conducted for a few hours, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Friday.

The pilot tests could just be held for an hour up to three hours once a week, Roque said, adding that participating students will still be learning from home on other days.

"Hindi naman sinabi na palibhasa face-to-face, 'yan po ay eight hours, five days a week," Roque said in a televised briefing.

[Translation: We are not saying that just because there are face-to-face classes, they will already be held for eight hours, five days a week.]

"Pupwede naman one hour per week, 3 hours per week, basta meron lang pong kombinasyon ng module, ng computer-aided," he added.

[Translation: The classes can only be conducted for an hour or up to three hours per week. The face-to-face classes will still be in combination with modules and computer-aided classes]

On Dec. 14 last year, the President approved the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in January for DepEd schools in areas identified as low risk for COVID-19, but he recalled the order after more than a week, citing the threat of the faster-spreading coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.

Roque said that since there appears to be no community transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant in the country yet, the Inter-Agency Task Force would again start discussing the possible resumption of in-person classes during their meeting next Monday. The Department of Health said last week while there is local transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant in Bontoc, Mountain Province, there is still insufficient proof to declare a community transmission of it. Local transmission means those infected can still identify how they may have gotten the virus. Community transmission means the source of infection can no longer be traced.

Basic education classes resumed in October under blended learning which involves a mix of internet-based sessions, radio and TV broadcasts, and printed self-learning modules. Classes in other levels are also mostly held online.

Last year, Duterte banned face-to-face classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. But he has since allowed limited face-to-face classes in medical and allied health programs in higher education institutions, face-to-face trainings and assessments of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and other technical vocational institutions, and face-to-face medical internship at the Philippine General Hospital. The arrival of the initial vaccine shipment is expected this first quarter of the year.