F2F CLASSES BACK SOON. Department of Education Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III says face-to-face classes will no longer be optional for public and private school learners starting Nov. 2, in a virtual briefing on Tuesday (July 12, 2022). He said options for blended learning and full distance learning will only be until Oct. 31, 2022. (Screengrab)

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) said Tuesday that mandatory classes for all public and private schools nationwide will start by November 2, to ensure educational recovery in the country.

In a virtual press briefing, DepEd Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said schools will be given options of in-person, blended, or full-distance learning only until October 31. But after this, all enrolled students will be required to attend face-to-face classes, under DepEd Order (DO) 034, series of 2022.

“This is mandatory, they are all required to go to school and the mandate is really to eventually go face-to-face. Everybody who’s enrolled should abide by the Department Order, parents are also encouraged to ensure that their students go to school. Again, we’re trying to do some educational recovery,” he said.

Alert level status

Densing said the DO will be generally applied, regardless of the alert level status.

“Regardless of the alert level, we will move or go on with the face-to-face classes. However, we will now leave it to the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Infectious diseases, that if there is such a surge, and the Department of Health would eventually recommend that we go to a, that we cease to do the face-to-face class because of a surge, we will just follow, the decision of the IATF,” he said.

But some parents expressed skepticism over the "mandatory" approach considering the possible surge of infections. Like, Jeanet Bares, a 46-year-old mother of six kids in Cavite.

"What if 'yung city kung saan nakatira ay nagpanukala na tataas 'yung Alert Level 2, or 3, or 4. Hindi mo naman mapapayagan palabasin ang mga bata sa isang lugar na tumataas naman ang Covid-19 cases. Hindi rin, dahil hindi pa 100 percent vaccinated ang ilan sa mga kababayan natin, mas mabuti na mag-set nang maayos na protocol na ipatutupad para maging maayos at safe ang lahat," she told the Philippine News Agency.

(What if the city where the [learners] are residing imposed the heightening of alert level status to 2, 3, or 4, you cannot just let kids go out despite the increasing Covid-19 cases. I'm also not in favor since some of our fellows are not 100 percent vaccinated, it's better to impose an appropriate protocol where all will be in order and safe.)

However, Maricel Estoque, a 43-year-old mom, said this move will be helpful to her three children, given the long halt of their in-person learning setup.

“Mas okay sa akin na maibalik na ang face-to-face class, kasi honestly for the past two years wala talaga natutunan ang mga bata, dahil walang formal and proper learning. Especially mga grade schoolers and not all parents ay may kakayahan or may time na maturuan ang mga bata. Unlike ‘yung everyday na papasok sila sa school na teacher ang magturo sa kanila which is sila talaga ang may ability na ituro ang mga lesson sa bawat subject,” she told the PNA.

(For me, it’s better to get back to face-to-face class[es], because honestly for the past two years, the children barely learn a thing, because there’s no formal and proper learning. Especially for grade-schoolers and not all parents are capable or able in time to teach their children. Unlike the setup [kids] will go to school every day where the teachers will be the one teaching them, having the ability to discuss every lesson in every subject.)

Moreover, the DepEd said it would no longer demand additional requirements from schools before they could resume with a five-day in-person class setup.

“We would like to note that there will be no inspections, tools, or any additional requirements to reopen schools, and to implement five-day in-person classes which will be required, except for the compliance with the usual pre-pandemic regulatory permit and licenses, as required by law or ordinances,” Densing said.

He also assured that the regional offices will be provided with the funds needed to ensure the safe reopening of face-to-face classes, but it will be up to the regional offices to set strategies for the capacity of learners per classroom.

“We have directed our regional directors to determine and to ensure there is social distancing within the classroom. I believe the capacity of the rooms really varies, there are rooms that have seat capacity, there are rooms that are in, 30s, or 20s, and then we leave it to the determination of the regional directors just to ensure social distancing within the classroom,” he said.

On Monday, the DepEd released DO 034, stating that the 203 days of Academic Year 2022-2023 for public schools will begin on August 22, 2022 (Monday) and will end on July 7, 2023.

Meanwhile, the schedule of official enrollment for all levels starts on July 25 until August 22. (PNA)