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Private schools laud pilot F2F

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A private educators group welcomes President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of pilot limited in-person classes as the only logical next step, reiterating the lack thereof has, for so long, resulted in huge learning losses.

In an interview over Daily Tribune’s “Gising Na!” Cocopea managing director Noel Estrada said that, on balance, it’s not really the closure of schools that controls transmission, but sustained social distancing and health protocols.

Estrada believes the success of the implementation doesn’t solely rely on a school, but the level of local-government support in terms of response and preparedness.

There are outside factors, too, according to Estrada; the use of public transport and quarantine classification in areas where in-person classes are allowed should also be considered.

Here, the support from a local government may come through its provision of shuttle services to its constituent teachers and students, as well as response to emergencies and resurgence of cases.

Estrada said that the Philippines can also follow the best practices of other countries that took a phased approach and started in low-risk areas, as well as the adoption of breakthrough “classroom bubbles.”

The implementation of face-to-face classes are approved in low-risk areas and will be participated by at least 100 public schools and 20 private schools.

“These schools are located in minimal-risk areas based on the criteria set by the Department of Health (DOH), and must have passed the safety assessment using the school safety assessment tool of DepEd,” Education undersecretary for instruction and curriculum Diosdado San Antonio told “Gising Na!”

While the public schools have already undergone a selection process, the private school participants will still undergo selection.

Participating schools must have the written support and consent of parents of students who shall participate in the pilot.

According to San Antonio, no learner, however, shall be forced to attend the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes.

The pilot will be conducted with a combination of face-to-face classes in school and distance learning modalities for two months.

Face-to-face classes shall be conducted half-day every other week, with participating schools ensuring that class schedules are arranged equitably so that all qualified learners have the opportunity to attend face-to-face classes.

While schools reopened on 13 September with 24 million students starting classes under the distance learning system, the date of the implementation of pilot limited in-person classes has yet to be finalized by the DepEd and the DOH.

In limiting transmission, the country has shut down schools and kept them closed for prolonged periods, so that, before President Duterte’s announcement about this latest development on 20 September, the Philippines and Venezuela were the only countries in the world where schools were still closed.

Since the outset of the pandemic, the country has shifted from alternative modes of distance learning, which showed some cracks almost one and a half year into its implementation, the most affected being children in low-resource settings who do not have access to remote learning tools.

In terms of economic losses, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua estimated that the country stands to lose around P11 trillion in the next four-decades from pandemic-induced school closures.

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