THREE universities in Cebu are readying their facilities as they are set to welcome their students back now that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has allowed limited face-to-face (F2F) classes in areas under Alert Level 2.

On Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, Commission on Higher Education (Ched) Chairperson Prospero de Vera announced that colleges and universities in areas under Alert Level 2 can start applying for authorization in December this year to hold F2F classes for all degree programs.

University of Cebu (UC) executive vice chancellor Jack Sarausad told SunStar Cebu that they are now readying all their five campuses, namely UC Main Campus, UC’s Marine Education and Training Center, UC Banilad Campus, UC Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue Campus and UC Pardo-Talisay campus, as they are set to implement limited F2F classes.

Sarausad said they were gradually preparing for limited F2F classes especially since their allied health, maritime, engineering and other programs were given the go signal by Ched to hold F2F classes earlier this year.

“All these campuses have already prepared the common facilities like the hallways, the triage, the isolation room and classrooms. We also expanded to other campuses. For these past months, we have been preparing like retrofitting the entire campus,” Sarausad added.

For their part, officials of the University of San Carlos (USC) said their switch to F2F classes will be “gradual, sequential, and progressive.”

“We will adapt hybrid learning and teaching modalities, which means the use of both online and physical/in-person methodologies,” said Fr. Narciso “Sisoy” Cellan, SVD, USC university president.

For Dr. Sheila Cayabyab, Southwestern University-Phinma’s vice president for academics, the development was “welcome,” especially that it would mean that they can closely monitor their students on their progress.

“Being the first school in the entire Cebu Province to have applied and been granted the authority to conduct limited face-to-face is proof that we strongly believe that there are learnings that have to happen in the school using the laboratories and equipment that cannot be obtained by the students on their own (e.g. hazardous chemicals) which also need close supervision of teachers (e.g. procedures involving human beings in the medical and health-related programs),” Cayabyab told SunStar Cebu.

Cayabyab also believes that blended learning is the best way for students to learn and this learning modality would require going to school for identified subjects and activities.

De Vera said they proposed to the 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.

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

Cebu is under Alert Level 2.

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

He added that there must also be concurrence or support from the local government units 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.