The Department of Education (DepEd) will be adding more public schools to the list of schools included in the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes as active coronavirus cases continue to decline.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan said on Friday that they are considering adding 177 public schools to the program.

“[The] DepEd and DoH (Department of Health) has endorsed [this idea] to the Office of the President to give greater flexibility in increasing the number of schools, and they have approved this provided that we still keep the pilot nature,” he said in an ANC interview.

Mr. Malaluan added that Education Secretary Leonor M. Magtolis-Briones instructed schools nationwide to begin with school safety assessments in preparation for an expanded phase of limited face-to-face classes which is expected to start early next year.

The expanded phase will not be limited to specific grade levels. The current program is limited to classes in kindergarten, grades 1 to 3, and technical vocation students in senior high school.

Twenty-eight schools in Metro Manila are expected to conduct dry runs for physical classes which will begin on Dec. 6 as part of the pilot program.

“There was an agreement between the Metro Manila mayors that they want to have representation for all cities,” Mr. Malaluan said.

He also said that they are constantly working to improve guidelines for face-to-face classes, especially in extending the number of hours in school and setting up plastic barriers.

“We have put out a monitoring and evaluation template for all of our schools to report, and this will be basis of our evaluation over the Christmas break for submission to the Office of the President,” Mr. Malaluan said.

The government allowed the pilot run of face-to-face classes in 100 public schools and 18 private schools starting Nov. 15 and Nov. 22 respectively.

DepEd earlier said that no coronavirus cases have been reported so far in schools with limited physical learning.

The Philippines is the last country in the world to reopen schools since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. — Russell Louis C. Ku

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