education in the Philippines

Physical distancing in classrooms may be eased for next school year – DepEd official

Bonz Magsambol

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Physical distancing in classrooms may be eased for next school year – DepEd official

BACK IN SCHOOL. Kinder, prep and elementary students up to Grade 3 attend the resumption of the pilot face-to-face classes at the Aurora A. Quezon Elementary School in Manila on February 9, 2022, after a halt due to another surge of COVID-19 cases. Rappler

The easing of physical distancing restrictions in classrooms could increase the number of students joining face-to-face classes in school year 2022 to 2023
Physical distancing in classrooms may be eased for next school year – DepEd official

MANILA, Philippines – Physical distancing in classrooms for schools under Alert Level 1 areas may be eased when the next school year starts in August, an official of the Department of Education (DepEd) said on Monday, June 20.

“Sa pagpasok ng bagong school year, ang protocol na pinaabot sa atin ng Department of Health (DOH) ay puwede ng i-relax ang physical distancing kung Alert Level 1 na. Ito yung malaking pagbabago,” said Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan in a televised press briefing aired on state-run PTV4.

(For the next school year, the Department of Health advised us that under its protocol, we can already relax the physical distancing if schools are under Alert Level 1 areas. This is the significant change.)

His remarks came on the same day Vice President-elect and incoming Education Secretary Sara Duterte at a press conference said, “we are targeting that,” when asked if more face to face classes would be allowed in the new school year.

The easing of restrictions in classrooms could lead to an increase in the number of students physically attending classes.

“Sa ngayon kasi may limitasyon tayo sa [kung] ilang mag-aaral ang maaaring i-accommodate sa isang silid-aralan para ma-observe ‘yong physical distancing requirement,” Malaluan explained.

(For now, we have limits on the number of students that can be accommodated in a classroom to allow for physical distancing.)

Why this matters

The conduct of in-person classes currently has ceilings of only 12 students in kindergarten, 16 students for grades 1 to 3, and 12 to 20 students for senior high school.

Aside from Alert Level 1 status, Malaluan said holding in-person classes will depend on schools’ completion of the DepEd’s “readiness requirements,” which include availability of basic health facilities.

The DepEd official said that 80% of the some 48,000 public schools and some 12,000 private schools in the country have already met their requirements for face-to-face classes. As of April 22, there were about 25,786 schools holding in-person classes.

But the DepEd’s plans could go awry if the country experiences another pandemic setback.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ on Monday morning, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the DOH was seeing a “continuously increasing (case rate) especially in the National Capital Region.”

The health official said that the trend was similar to when the country started recording a spike in cases in September 2021 and January 2022 due to Delta and Omicron variants, respectively. Vergeire attributed the current increase in cases to the entry of Omicron subvariants, increased patterns of mobility, and the waning immunity due to the slow uptake of boosters. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.