The Education department will not allow face-to-face classes in the coming school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary Leonor Briones said Thursday.
“I would like to emphasize: There is no conflict, there is no disagreement, there is no debate between the pronouncement of the President and of the department because they are exactly the same,” Briones said in a public briefing.
“We will not allow children to be too close to one another.”
Local officials said Thursday the opening of schools must be postponed for the next few months to keep children out of harm’s way.
League of Provinces of the Philippines president and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. said he thought starting the school year in August was too early.
Quirino Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua, president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, said he was amenable to postponing the opening of classes for up to a year if needed.
League of Municipalities of the Philippines president Chavit Singson, mayor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, said the safety of the children must be upheld.
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro has filed House Bill 6832 mandating mass testing, contact tracing and infection prevention protocols and disease surveillance measures for the safe reopening of schools. She has also filed House Bill 6837 or the Doctors and Nurses in Schools Act.
She said the government should make sure preventive measures and safety precautions were in place before reopening classes and schools for the health and safety of teachers, students and their families.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers-State Colleges and Universities, meanwhile, said Thursday the government was sowing confusion and placing everyone at great risk because of the inconsistent pronouncements of government officials.
“Instead of providing clarity and direction, these officials are causing more psychological stress to people,” the group said.
On Sunday, the Education department said the conduct of face-to-face classes would depend on the risk level of the areas where the schools were located.
On Monday, however, President Rodrigo Duterte opposed the resumption of classes with the physical attendance of students.
Briones said her department would pursue the resumption of classes resumption through alternative approaches like blended learning and flexible learning.
She said her department was working on using broadcast media and the internet to deliver education to students. The department had been crafting self-learning modules that would be printed and reproduced for those who had no access to internet.