COLLEGES and universities in areas under Alert Level 2 in the country can start applying for authorization in December this year to hold face-to-face classes for all degree programs.

Commission on Higher Education (Ched) Chairperson Prospero De Vera announced this during a briefing before the House committee on higher and technical education, chaired by Baguio City Representative Mark Go, on Monday, November 15, 2021.

De Vera said they proposed to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) the holding of expanded face-to-face classes in higher education institutions (HEI) in areas under the Alert Level System, but the rollout will be done in phases.

Phase 1 will start in December this year in all regions under Alert Level 2, while Phase 2 will start in January 2022 in all regions under Alert Level 3.

“This is without prejudice to HEIs applying earlier than the period of implementation,” read the presentation shown by De Vera during the briefing Monday.

The IATF, on November 2, allowed the conduct of limited in-person classes in areas under Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3.

De Vera clarified that interested schools may apply for authorization for the expanded rollout in December, provided that their facilities have been retrofitted.

This means that their facility must have adequate ventilation; table-chair layout adheres to the physical distancing of 1.5 meters; there are visible and readable signages of health and safety reminders, as well as markings on the floor to direct one-way foot traffic; and hand washing stations are present.

He stressed that there must also have concurrence or support from the local government units (LGUs) to conduct face-to-face classes, and that the HEIs must have a system to ensure that only fully vaccinated teaching and non-teaching personnel, as well as students can enter the campus premises.

“HEIs shall inform those who are 65 years of age, with uncontrolled healt risks, and/or pregnant women intending to join limited face-to-face classes of the risk of contracting Covid-19 and to consider flexible learning,” Ched stated.

Other conditions set under the Ched and Department of Health (DOH) Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 2021-004 are the following:

* HEIs have informed consent from all participating students.

* HEIs signified intent to conduct limited face-to-face classes and submitted the complete documentary requirements.

* HEIs passed the on-site inspection of the Ched Inspection Team on retrofitted facilities.

* HEIs were able to demonstrate ability to comply with the JMC, other policies of the IATF, minimum health public standards and Covid-related protocols of DOH, and health and safety protocols of their LGUs.

De Vera clarified that the limited face-to-face classes are not mandatory.

“HEIs which are not included in the implementation shall continue to implement flexible learning,” he said.

“Students of authorized HEIs who prefer not to attend the limited in-person classes shall continue to be governed by the Guidelines on the Implementation of Flexible Learning,” he added.

"We are doing it by phases so we can adjust accordingly if we need to amend guidelines, we need to copy best practices, and we will be able to monitor challenges that will be experienced by stakeholders," the Ched chairperson said.

As of October 8, data from Ched showed that 27,336 students and 2,310 faculty or personnel have been attending limited in-person classes.

As of November 4, there were a total of 3,883,460 tertiary students in the country, of which 1,149,536 or 29.60 percent were vaccinated.

As of HEI personnel, Ched data showed that the country has 270,246 personnel, of which 75.74 percent or 204,692 were vaccinated.