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No Talking During Mealtimes, No AC In Classrooms: DepEd COVID-19 Guidelines For Face-To-Face Classes in November
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Parents have mixed reactions on the DepEd Order (DO) that face-to-face classes are back on November 2, 2022 -- and that it is mandatory for all, regardless of whether a student goes to public or private school. Teachers, on the other hand, are surprised by the news and teachers' groups have been quick to raise concerns.

    In a press briefing with DepEd Usec. Epimaco Densing III on July 12, he assured that the Vice President and DepEd Secreatary Sara Z. Duterte has made it her goal to improve the quality of education in the country. This goes not only for the learners, but the teachers as well.

    Duterte aims to use a DepEd budget of about 800 billion pesos to primarily compensate teachers. According to Densing, Duterte has made it clear that she wants: "Focus lang ng mga guro ang magturo."

    Densing also mentioned that Duterte has already read and responded to the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) who protested the mandate for all schools to implement face-to-face classes. COCOPEA petitioned for "flexibility" instead, with options for parents to continue hybrid learning delivery models.

    Densing said, "Those options are applicable until October 31, 2022." After which, Densing added, "They will have the transition period to ensure that health and safety protocols will be put in place before full face-to-face classes are implemented on November 2."

    Guidelines On The Prevention Of COVID-19 And Other Infectious Diseases

    "This is the right time for us to do face-to-face [classes]," Densing also said, citing that two years of the pandemic crisis have prevented any progress in returning back to school. "The general policy of the DepEd on this is that regardless of the alert level, we will go on with the face-to-face classes."

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    As such, the DO No. 034 includes the following guidelines for schools this coming school year.

    On Facemasks:

    Using a facemask shall be mandatory.  A face shield may be used when no face mask is available or if the entire face is required to be visible during an activity.

    On Physical Distancing:

    Physical distancing shall be strictly observed at all times and places.

    During the press briefing, the issue of classroom congestion, particularly in public schools, was brought up.

    "This will be addressed depending on where we are," Densing said, "We have given the go signal to our regional directors to determine and ensure there is social distancing within the classroom. I believe the capacity of the rooms vary."

    On Classroom Set-Up:

    Classroom doors and windows will be kept open for proper ventilation. So, yes, that means that airconditioning units will not be turned on during classes.

    On Mealtimes:

    Eating will be done in such a way that both faculty and students are not facing each other or speaking without a face mask, which includes while consuming a meal.

    The DO states, "Students, teaching, and non-teaching personnel are strictly prohibited from eating together while facing one another."

    On Unvaccinated Students:

    The school will work with the DOH to provide counselling for unvaccinated learners and their families. Once the unvaccinated learner consents and signs it in written form, mobile vaccination will be provided to them.

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    On Mental Health:

    The school will work with a partner mental health association to support all members of the academe, students, and non-teaching personnel during the transition period.

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    On COVID-19 Symptoms:

    Parents are urged to monitor the students for any symptoms of COVID-19 so that they can report it immediately to the class adviser and health authorities. Students who are isolating at home or in a facility, but are well enough to answer modules, will be provided an option for distance learning while they exhibit symptoms. Students that are admitted to the hospital are exempted from classes.

    Densing reiterated that the DepEd will proceed with face-to-face classes regardless of any alert levels raised. He assured, however, that "DepEd will follow if a certain government unit will lockdown, recommend, or approve that classes in a certain area will be suspended."

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    On The School's Accountability:

    The DO provides that the school will not be held liable should any student, teacher, or non-teaching personnel contract COVID-19 throughout the school year.

    At the same time, the school shall prepare an infection control plan and containment strategy in case of any surges on campus.

    Of all these guidelines, provisions, and mandates, Densing said, "They will have enough time to prepare until October."

    There are more concerns to tackle

    Densing says that DepED, along with other departments such as DILG and DOTC, will be having a meeting on Friday, July 15, to discuss such matters as the issue of transportation and commuting for students and their families.

    Parents are also concerned that they made investments in laptops and other workspace materials, only for them to be useless after October. Some private schools have already begun enrollment under the agreement with parents on blended learning options.

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    Many parents, though, are excited for their children to be able to interact with their age groups and classmates.

    Teachers have expressed their exhaustion, however, and find that the start of classes on August 22 is too soon. Many of them are still completing requirements and other work from the previous school year.

    Let's hope these concerns can soon be resolved by the government and school communities.

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