The University of St. La Salle (USLS) in this city will reopen its campus on November 22 for limited face-to-face classes in its schools of nursing and medicine.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in Western Visayas granted a certificate of authority to USLS after it complied with the requirements of the CHED and Department of Health (DOH) under the Joint Memorandum Circular, effective from November 5, 2021 to August 22, 2022, CHED-6 regional director Maura Consolacion Cristobal said.
This authority shall be subject to revocation if the school fails to maintain and to comply with rules and regulations stated in the said joint circular pertaining to limited face-to-face classes, Cristobal further said in the certificate.
Dr. Annabelle Balor, USLS vice chancellor for academic affairs, said that they received the certificate of authority on November 8, just four days after officials of CHED, DOH, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the local government unit conducted a virtual inspection of the school facility.
In a November 10 interview with Rappler, Balor said the school submitted its application to CHED on October 29, after USLS had done the requisite preparations for the Colleges of Nursing and Medicine.
The limited face-to-face classes will only cover the third and fourth year nursing students, and first to fourth year medical students, as part of the 2021-2022 academic year, Balor said.
The current school year started in August, she added.
USLS Bacolod pushed for limited face-to-face classes, with emphasis on safety and wellness, because it was to produce professionals who were well-trained not only in theory and but in practice.
Balor said that the limited the face-to-face classes to courses that need hands-on experience and the use of essential school facilities.
In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, USLS has produced a board exam topnotcher in Patrick Joseph Mabugat, who ranked second in the 2020 Physician Licensure Examination.
COVID-19 Task Force
The national COVID-19 task force (IATF) has placed Bacolod, the capital city of Negros Occidental, under Alert Level 2 starting Monday, November 15.
From June 2021 until early in November, Bacolod was on the Department of Health’s Alert Level 4 because of its high case counts and hospitals struggling with high utilization rates due to COVID-19 patients.
USLS established its crisis management committee as early as February this year to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment and implement appropriate health and safety protocols such as contact tracing, cleaning, and disinfection of facilities. The committee is chaired by school president and chancellor Joaquin Severino Martinez.
Balor, who is also part of the committee, was tasked to oversee the planning and development of the Higher Education Unit Programs’ Learning Continuity Plan and consultation with the stakeholders.
In November, the creation of the committee proved relevant as this was part of CHED’s requirements to reopen for limited face-to-face classes.
Aside from that, the school is also required to consult the local government unit, faculty, students, and other relevant stakeholders about their stand in opening the campus for limited face-to-face classes.
In their recent survey, 385 of the 452 nursing enrollees, or 85.18%, have said yes to face-to-face classes, while 237 of the 240 medical students, or 98.75%, are also willing to receive face-to-face instruction.
Balor said the students are looking forward to having some face-to-face engagement, as this would be the first time the school will open after one year and six months.
Balor stressed that the limited face-to-face setup was not mandatory for its students, as others could still opt for remote learning, although this may delay their completion of the course since practical classes are among the requirements.
She said all students who will attend the face-to-face classes are fully-vaccinated, as well as ,the professors and staff who will be part of the programs.
Data provided by the school to Rappler showed an uptick in the enrollment in its nursing program in the first semester of its 2021-2022 academic year at 979 from 755 in the same period last year. Of the figure, 274 and 178 students were enrolled in the third and fourth year levels, respectively.
For medicine, there was a decrease in enrollment during the period compared to last year, with 240 enrollees from 283. Of the number, 47 are currently enrolled in the fourth year.
The reason for the decrease in the enrollment in the College of Medicine was partly due to the implementation of senior high school since there are two academic years without regular college graduates, USLS has said.
The move to start the face-to-face instruction has also posed a challenge to the school management as they have to ensure that health protocols against COVID-19 are implemented while the quality of education remains at the highest level.
For Balor, one of the challenges they faced during the preparation for the face-to-face classes was the restructuring of its school offerings.
She admitted that more work has to be done, especially for the professors who are handling the courses.
This is because only 13 students will be allowed during the engagement period in the classrooms and laboratories to enforce the 1.5 meters physical distance, she said. Teachers will have to do the practical lessons by batches to accommodate all the students while ensuring that the strict health protocols are met.
Also, the teacher has to identify which outcomes and topics would require face-to-face engagement, as other lectures would be done online.
Students who will be attending the limited face-to-face classes will only be allowed to be at the campus for four days. The less the number of days outside their homes, the less chances of getting exposed to the virus, Balor said.
“We hope no one is going to get COVID-19. We have safety measures in place. We even have an algorithm in case students get COVID while participating in the face-to-face classes,” she said.
The school continues to conduct their on-campus COVID-19 vaccination program for its students and their households, teachers, staff, and all of its employees so they can achieve herd immunity in the La Sallian community in Bacolod. – Rappler.com