Press Release
February 25, 2021

DepEd's science homework: Safe face-to-face class trials in COVID-free areas

Here's an assignment for the Department of Education: Set up laboratory schools that will test the safety of limited face-to-face classes.

"That is the science lesson DepEd should study," said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, adding that "debates on whether to open classes should now move from theory to trials."

He called on the Education department to work with the Department of Health, local government chiefs, Local School Boards, and "the country's best scientific minds" to design several "classroom settings safe for our children and teachers."

"For example, begin with 10 students in a room that is well ventilated. Tapos, mask lahat. Constant handwashing. Temperature check. And instead of whole day in school, cut it to half, and limit to 2-3 times a week. Teachers with medical clearance. Kumpleto ang safeguards. Will this work?" Recto said.

He said these "closely monitored trial classes" can be held in COVID-free areas, possibly in remote barangays or self-contained communities which have not recorded a single case of COVID-19 in months.

"One third ng mga towns, walang COVID case. Yung mga schools sa maliliit na isla na hindi labas-pasok ang mga tao, hindi ba pwede simulan doon? Ito yung tinatawag nila na granular and customized approach. Because a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work," Recto said.

Recto said that to give participants "peace of mind", government should guarantee the full cost of hospitalization, "under an insurance package worth millions."

He said only volunteers should participate, "walang pilitan, because what we want is a community project and not something that is imposed by the government."

"Let it be an 'It takes a village to safely teach a child' that will be undertaken by the people themselves. If and when limited face-to-face classes are found feasible, give the community the power to decide to open classes safely--but not the power to overrule health rules," Recto said.

Recto said that even if mass vaccination is underway, health protocols will remain for some time "and how these will be imposed in a school setting must be studied."

"Kahit naman may bakuna na, masking and social distancing will remain. We cannot right away go back to jampacked schools with standing-room only classes," he said.

"What if COVID has long-haul effects on society? Hindi naman forever distance learning ang mga bata," he said.

"Kung 2024 pa ang vaccination matatapos, at last priority ang mga bata, don't tell me that this mass incarceration of our youth will have no impact on mass education," Recto said.

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