AFTER begging off in the initial round of the supposed pilot implementation of face-to-face (F2F) classes, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones revealed that Davao Region is now reconsidering joining in the limited F2F classes.
Briones said during a virtual press conference on Friday, April 30, that Davao was supposedly included in DepEd’s plan to conduct pilot F2F classes for the whole month of January 2021 in select schools in areas declared as low-risk for coronavirus transmission.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the plan on December 14, 2020 but later on ordered to cancel the plan due to the discovery of new variants of the coronavirus in the country.
Duterte also said that he will allow the F2F classes if the country has already secured a steady supply of Covid-19 vaccines.
"Initially, ayaw ng Davao. Kasi yung criteria natin...the parents, the local government, [and] sa assessment ng regional director, baka hindi ready ang Davao. Pero nag-change na yun dahil mas open na ang mga schools sa Davao to possible face-to-face. (The region initially begged off because based on the assessment of the parents, local government, and the regional director, the region then was not yet ready. But this has changed because they are now open to the idea of having face-to-face classes in the region.) Maybe because there has been a change also in the situation of Covid[-19]," Briones said in a virtual presser.
Briones said they already selected 1,900 out of the 47,000 schools in the entire country for the gradual implementation of F2F classes.
The decisions as to where F2F classes will be held are data-driven.
DepEd-Davao Regional Director Allan Farnazo said while there has been an "anxiety" on the part of the region to participate in the limited face-to-face, but they reconsidered participating in the limited face to face classes due to the continuing downtrend of Covid-19 cases in the entire region, especially in Davao City.
"Lahat ng ito, bago natin i-recommend ang (All of these things, before we make a recommendation, there must be an) approval for the conduct of a limited face-to-face ay dapat sumusunod siya sa (because we base it on the) local health risk assessment," Farnazo said.
The regional director also said Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy, who is also the Regional Development Council chairperson, submitted a proposal to their office to conduct face-to-face classes.
In a press release, the Social Development Committee-Davao Region (SDC-Davao), during the first quarter Full Council Meeting, passed a resolution enjoining the support of Davao Region local government units (LGUs) in the pilot implementation of DepEd’s limited F2F classes.
The adoption of the limited F2F classes came as a response to the monitoring and assessment of DepEd on the Distance Learning Delivery Modalities (DLDMs) during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the success of the current mitigating measures and the anticipated roll out of the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for Covid-19 vaccines.
“The proposed limited face-to-face classes will serve as a mechanism to assess the viability of the safe reopening of schools in low-risk areas, identify strategies or resource requirements for the effective and efficient transition of learners from distance learning to expanded face-to-face classes,” SDC-Davao said in a press release.
According to SDC, DepEd-Davao informed that 39 schools are eyed to implement limited face-to-face classes – seven schools from Davao de Oro, five from Davao del Sur, 20 from Davao Occidental, and seven from Tagum City in Davao del Norte.
However, Farnazo said they have selected 18 schools for the pilot implementation. He did not give a breakdown per LGU.
He clarified, however, that they will not force students to attend.
Children with existing health issues or comorbidities will not be allowed to attend the face to face classes.
Briones admitted the move for the possible face-to-face classes is due to the request of some parents and barangays, particularly, in the indigenous communities in far flung areas.
This after some parents raised concerns that they cannot cope in helping their children as some have not finished their studies.
She said they already anticipated the problem prior to the first day of the blended learning class.
Briones said she is open to the idea of a F2F in low risk areas considering not all places in the country have severe transmission of the Covid-19.
Before DepEd will pilot the gradual face-to-face classes in selected areas, she said certain conditions must be met. These include the approval from the local government units, the school facilities must be ready, and that health protocol measures must be in place.
Parents’ consent is also a requirement but they won’t make it compulsory.
“We’re very careful because children's lives are at stake,” the DepEd head said.
She, however, said the distance learning modalities will still be implemented for as long as the threat of the Covid-19 is still around and some parents won't allow their children to go to school.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser that the pilot implementation of face-to-face (F2F) classes might be conducted in August this year.
“Perhaps, the pilot testing of face-to-face classes can be done by August or it can come earlier. Let’s see. It depends on our vaccination drive,” Roque said.