Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio on Wednesday said he was withdrawing a proposal to shorten the summer break to two weeks after drawing fierce criticism online.
On Tuesday, the Department of Education adjusted the current school calendar to address learning gaps among students, moving the last day of classes to July 10 from June 11.
But officials could not say if changes in the school calendar would shorten the summer break.
The DepEd moved the start of School Year 2020 to 2021 from June to October so schools could prepare for distance learning, which was implemented after in-person classes were banned due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, students would be allowed to stay in school for at most half a day only under the proposed pilot test of face-to-face classes, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said Wednesday.
Speaking in yesterday’s Senate committee on basic education chaired by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Malaluan said the general rule will be a maximum of half-day only for face-to-face classes.
“Our decision is for learners to take… their lunch at home rather than at school because it’s in the setting of taking their meals that some of the risks are increased,” said Malaluan, who is spokesman for the department.
“So, the students will have to go home—if their schedule is in the morning, to have their lunch at home or those that are coming for an afternoon schedule should have already eaten their lunch at home,” he said.
He also said a maximum of 20 students would be allowed per class depending on the size of a classroom. Only 16 students will be allowed inside a smaller classroom.
Furthermore, Malaluan said a maximum of 50 schools per region would be allowed to participate in the pilot run. He said only one class per grade level in a small school can hold face-to-face classes: a maximum of three classes per grade level in a medium school, and up to five classes per grade in a large school.
Noting the quality of distance learning remains hounded by challenges such as the lack of adequate preparation, as well as expensive and unreliable information and communications technology (ICT) services, Gatchalian has renewed his call for localized limited face-to-face classes to hasten learning recovery.
He said Filipino learners could not be left behind any longer.
President Duterte had earlier rejected the DepEd proposal for pilot tests of face-to-face classes,
Senator Nancy Binay suggested not including Metro Manila and Quezon province in the pilot tests and choosing only areas with zero or almost-zero COVID-19 cases.
Senator Pia Cayetano, on the other hand, urged the DepEd to issue general guidelines for the opening of the coming school year.
The Senate on Tuesday has adopted Senate Resolution No. 663 recommending the resumption of physical learning through the immediate launch of the pilot testing of localized limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas identified by DepEd.
In the House of Representatives, a member of the minority bloc criticized the DepEd for saying vaccines for teachers will not be a “matter of choice” in case of face-to-face classes.
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said getting a vaccine should still be a matter of choice for teachers and should not be a requisite for the return to face-to-face classes.
During a Senate hearing for the committee on basic education, arts and culture, Department of Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said that vaccination will not be a “matter of choice” for teachers if it would be part of the protocol for face-to-face classes.
“Getting any kind of vaccine or any kind of medical procedure should be a matter of choice for everyone. We caution the Department of Education in their statement saying teachers might not get a choice when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19 if it becomes a part of the protocol for face-to-face classes,” Castro said.
Castro said the DepEd and the Duterte administration should instead ensure that teachers would get higher priority in the vaccination plan and make sure that what they would offer to teachers is a free, efficacious, and safe vaccine.
“It is very alarming to note that there is poor public confidence in the Duterte administration’s vaccination plan especially with their lack in transparency and its priority in a vaccine with the lowest efficacy rate,” Castro said.
“It is the government’s responsibility and mandate to provide the people the safest and most cost-efficient vaccine. With COVID-19 vaccines starting to be made available, this administration must ensure that those who need it will be able to get it,” she added.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, meanwhile, approved the plan of four medical schools to conduct limited face-to-face classes and clerkship programs for their health-related programs.
This after Domagoso met with officials of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) College of Medicine, Metropolitan Medical Center College of Arts and Sciences, Chinese General Hospital Colleges, and Manila Theological College-College of Medicine.
“What is the goal here? To produce doctors, nurses, midwives, and all others allowed ng CHED to conduct face-to-face classes,” Domagoso said during the meeting.
“If we can produce that next year, then at least we can continue to strengthen our medical professionals handling the situation,” the mayor said.
Under PLM’s proposal, University President Emmanuel Leyco asked for the gradual reopening of the clinical clerkship program in the Ospital ng Maynila Medical Center.
Metropolitan Medical Center College of Arts and Sciences Executive Vice President Remedios Habacon, MD also requested to gradually re-open its face-to-face classes and clinical clerkship under the Doctor of Medicine program.
The Manila Theological College - College of Medicine also sought the mayor’s approval to allow its 4th year medical students to conduct a limited in-hospital duty at Tondo Medical Center, the school’s base hospital.
For Chinese General Hospital Colleges, Domagoso approved its request to resume hands-on pre-clinical training and clinical rotation in their campus laboratory and hospital for their students under the programs of Doctor of Medicine, BS Nursing, BS Medical Technology, BS Radiologic Technology, and BS Physical Therapy.
He also said the city has the capacity to test students and professors.
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