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Duterte approves pilot testing of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in areas with low COVID-19 cases.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing on Monday, September 21, that the pilot testing will take place in locations chosen by the Department of Health (DOH).

The statement came after Roque announced that a small delegation from the government's pandemic task force would meet with the President to examine the issue.

The DOH will base its list on the Department of Education's (DepEd) safety evaluation, as well as the written support of local government units (LGUs) or their resolution expressing support for the pilot testing. It further stated that no student would be forced to join.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones stated at the same press conference that the trial implementation of face-to-face classes would encompass 100 public schools in low-risk regions. These schools should also have passed the preparedness test. DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones added that 20 private schools are anticipated to join, pending DepEd and DOH approval.

A limited number of face-to-face classes will be piloted in 120 schools for the following grade levels:

  • Kindergarten: 12 students

  • Grades 1 to 3: 16 students

  • Technical vocational students in senior high school: 20 students

Classes will be held every other week and will be half-day. According to DepEd, lessons in Kindergarten to Grade 3 should last no more than three hours, and courses in senior high school should last no more than four hours.

Moreover, teachers who will participate in the pilot test will be vaccinated against COVID-19, DepEd mentioned. Briones added that teachers under 65 years old, whether or not they are vaccinated, can join as long as they do not have comorbidities.

DepEd stated that a combination of face-to-face classes and distant learning modalities will be used in the pilot testing, which will run for about two months.

Briones then mentioned that DepEd has yet to determine the start date of the pilot program but that the agency will implement it as soon as it receives instructions from the President.

DepEd and DOH also developed the operational rules for the face-to-face classes, with the assistance of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund, and other organizations specializing in children's health.

It includes a list of steps to prepare school workers, students, and the community for the school's reopening.

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