Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Norte set to reopen schools for pilot face-to-face classes

John Michael Mugas
Ilocos Norte set to reopen schools for pilot face-to-face classes

Health protocols are set up in Paddagan Elementary School in Bangui town, Ilocos Norte.

Courtey of DepEd-Ilocos Norte.

The Department of Education in Ilocos Norte says it is 'all systems go' for the pilot run of in-person classes in the province

In reaching one of the nine schools in Ilocos Norte that is set to reopen on Monday, November 15, a team from the Department of Education (DepEd) in Ilocos Norte would need to pass through a river course for at least 14 times.

“It is located in a remote area, approximately 6.5-kilometers from the national highway in Bangui town,” Valerie Talamayan, DepEd information officer, said on Saturday, November 13, referring to the Paddagan Elementary School.

The school in Bangui is the farthest in distance among all the nine schools which are reopening on Monday that are mostly located in remote areas in the other towns of Dumalneg, Marcos, and Pinili.

In the past days, the DepEd team had been going around these areas to ensure that school facilities were prepared by Monday when 383 of the 930 students enrolled would troop back to the nine schools for the first time after almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

The classroom setup at Paddagan Elementary School.
Courtesy of DepEd-Ilocos Norte.

All of them belong in kindergarten to grade 3 level and grades 11 and 12 under a technical-vocational livelihood track.

In Paddagan Elementary School, 13 of its 24 total enrolled students for the school year are returning to school this week.

On Friday, the DepEd in Ilocos Norte said it is “all systems go” for the pilot run of in-person classes in the province beginning this week.

Prior to Monday, the team which included DepEd nurses declared the students were all fit to participate in the pilot run, said Talamayan.

The 59 teachers participating in the activity had all been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

San Isidro Elementary School in Dumalneg, Ilocos Norte conducts a simulation of face-to-face classes.
Courtesy of DepEd-Ilocos Norte.

Talamayan said that the success of the pilot run depends on the “collaboration” among public and private stakeholders in the communities.

In the communities which host the schools, Talamayan said that they are all “excited” and had been helping in retrofitting the facilities following standard health protocols.

“Kung ano puwede nilang maitulong, they reach out,” added Talamayan. (Whatever they can help with, they reach out.)

To ensure the protection of those participating in the activity, the villages had also been placed under a “bubble” set-up to limit the risk of virus transmission, said Talamayan. Police personnel would be deployed at the school vicinity.

On Monday, there will be no big ceremonial activity of sorts, as the transition to physical classes might fluster the students after being under quarantine for a long period of time, Talamayan said.

“There will be a short orientation. And then classes will resume as usual,” she added.

Participating students would be divided into groups wherein they will be scheduled for physical classes on an five-day alternate basis to prevent crowding, said Talamayan.

No more than 12 students would stay inside a single classroom for half-day in-person classes, said Talamayan.

Based on a simulation run conducted last week, students on Monday would line up in a physical distance at the entrance gates where a medical triage is located for health screening. Before entering the classrooms, students would be checked again for their temperatures.

The schools had also assigned personnel trained in basic first-aid and COVID-19 health protocols to oversee the operations of their clinics. But a team from DepEd and Department of Health would go around the nine schools to constantly monitor these schools, according to Talamayan.

Health reminders written in Ilocano are posted in strategic areas in every school. There are wash zones and isolation areas are also set-up in case a student exhibits COVID-19 symptoms. On students’ desks in the classrooms are one box of disposable masks and face shields.

Ten schools are reopening in the Ilocos region beginning on Monday, with nine located in Ilocos Norte and one in Pangasinan. All the four towns hosting the schools in Ilocos Norte in the activity are classified as under “low-risk” of COVID-19 transmission by the DOH. –

John Michael Mugas is a Luzon based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.