Senate endorses ‘safe reopening of schools’, start of face-to-face classes dry run
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has recommended the “safe reopening of schools” through the immediate launching of the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.
This as the chamber adopted on Tuesday a “blended” resolution “expressing the sense of the Senate” to recommend the resumption of physical classes “through the immediate launch of the pilot testing of localized, limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas as identified by the Department of Education (DepEd) under risk-based assessment.”
Specifically, Senate approved Senate Resolution No. 663, which was amended “in the nature of a substitute.”
According to senators, the safe reopening of physical classes via a limited dry run of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas will enable DepEd “to gather evidence on the ground and design a framework for the safe reopening of schools.”
The resolution, however, stressed that the conduct of pilot-test physical classes should still follow “stringent mitigation measures, strict health protocols and guidelines” set by the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
During Monday’s session, senators agreed to come up with a “blended version” of Senate Resolution No. 663 and Senate Resolution No. 668 filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and basic committee chair Senator Sherwin Gatchalian with six other senators, respectively.
Sotto’s resolution seeks the resumption of face-to-face classes in areas having “few to zero” Covid-19 cases while the Gatchalian-led resolution called for the “immediate launch” of a dry run of limited face-to-face classes in order to “avert a prolonged learning loss” and put the country’s education system “back on its tracks.”
“My suggestion would be to merge, to blend the two resolutions…The way to do that is ‘expressing the sense of the Senate to recommend’—diinan kaagad—the ‘reopening of schools and the immediate launch of the pilot testing for localized limited face-to-face classes’,” Sotto had said.
“Para maliwanag…Baka isipin, pilot testing lang ang gusto natin. Hindi. Ang gusto natin talaga mag-face-to-face classes, mag-open na doon sa mga lugar na pwede,” he added.
(So that it’s clear…They may think that we only want pilot testing. No. What we want is to resume face-to-face classes in selected areas.)
Gatchalian agreed with Sotto’s suggestion but stressed that the reopening of classes should be done in phases “starting with pilot testing to gain ground experience and to get information especially science-based evidence.”
“In essence, the direction is to open our schools to face-to-face classes at one point in time. This is a very difficult decision because we need to gather data and analyze the data,” he said.
“The first phase is to launch a pilot testing of schools and then the second phase is to prepare for an eventuality of face-to-face classes,” Gatchalian added.
He said that after conducting hearings with education officials, his committee noted the lack of any information on how to reopen schools “based in the Philippine setting.”
“We deemed it necessary to launch a pilot testing program initially but the end goal is the same as the resolution of our good senate president, eventually what we want is the reopening of our schools,” he said.
“The direction is to open our schools to face-to-face classes at one point in time,” he added.
Earlier, DepEd proposed that limited face-to-face class pilot tests be conducted in January. President Rodrigo Duterte initially gave his green light to the proposal but later recalled his approval due to the threat of the new coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones made a fresh bid to reopen schools and allow in-person classes because, according to her, most learners, who have been cooped up for too long during the year-round lockdown, have been missing physical schooling and learning in an actual school.
But Duterte thumbed down DepEd’s latest push for the resumption of physical classes.
The President, however, allowed in January the resumption of limited face-to-face classes for medical and allied health programs in institutions located in general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ areas.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.