Isabela Colleges in hot water for holding face-to-face classes

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said on Tuesday, September 15, that it will issue a show cause order to Isabela Colleges for conducting face-to-face classes during the pandemic.

"The CHED Advisories have consistently advised HEIs (higher education institutions) to refrain from conducting face-to-face or in-person classes or mass gatherings in their campuses," CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera III said in a statement.

De Vera said this order had been disseminated in various media platforms and several Zoom meetings with HEIs, in light of the threat of community transmission due to the mass gathering of students.

"The CHED has not issued any policy to allow face-to-face classes and the IATF clearly states that limited face-to-face classes in low-risk MGCQ areas must comply with CHED guidelines," De Vera said.

This development comes after CHED looked into a report that a private school student in the city of Cauayan, Isabela tested positive for COVID-19 and that city health officials were tracing up to 45 contacts of the said student.

CHED said that the student attended an on-campus orientation on August 29 conducted by Isabela Colleges for its post-Baccalaureate students.

The student is an employee of the local government unit of the city of Cauayan, taking professional education courses in Isabela Colleges, the commission said.

Isabela Colleges has been conducting Saturday classes for its Continuing Professional Education (CPE) program since August 24, supposedly to "serve as the orientation sessions of the students," CHED added.

The show cause order gives Isabela Colleges 10 days to explain why no sanctions have been imposed on its officials for their failure to comply with CHED’s advisories.

The commission also ordered Isabela Colleges to stop holding face-to-face classes.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Isabela Colleges said that the orientation it conducted on August 29 was also the day the instructor distributed learning modules. (READ: Is it safe? Teachers fear exposure to coronavirus in modular learning setup)

It also said that the student is an employee of a Rural Health Unit and is a frontliner.

"She is already identified as PUI (person under investigation) and scheduled for swab testing and yet she still attended the said orientation and distribution of modules," the statement added.

Colleges and universities in the country are ordered to open classes using a flexible learning approach. (READ: FAST FACTS: CHED's flexible learning)

"Flexible learning" for higher education institutions involves a combination of digital and non-digital technology, which CHED says doesn't necessarily require connectivity to the internet. (READ: During pandemic, student climbs a mountain to send class requirement)

According to CHED, universities and colleges have the freedom to choose which mode would be effective for them. Classes could be purely online, purely modular, or a combination of the two. –Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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