SAFE OPENING OF CLASSES. The Department of Education (DepEd) launches Oplan Balik Eskwela with other government agencies and stakeholders on Monday (Aug. 15, 2022). They have also launched a Command Center where queries and concerns may be sent. (PNA Photo: Alfred Frias)

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday launched Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) to ensure the safe reopening of classes through a whole-of-government approach with the cooperation of private stakeholders.

In a press briefing, DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa said government and private partnership is important, but the role of parents is also significant to ensure the safe transitioning to face-to-face learning amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DepEd has launched an OBE Command Center, where parents, teachers, and other sectors may raise their queries or concerns about the upcoming in-person learning.

“The department cannot do it alone, even with our partner agencies, the government can't do it alone, humihingi rin tayo ng tulong and cooperation sa mga parents para masiguro natin ang ligtas na balik-aral ng ating learners (we are asking for the help and cooperation of parents for us to make sure learners’ safe back to school),” Poa said.

Safe learning spaces

The Department of Health (DOH) also insisted that vaccination plus adherence to minimum health protocols are the best way to be safe from the threat of Covid-19.

The plan of DepEd and DOH is to come up with a joint memorandum on vaccination and health protocols for safe in-person learning, where provisions on counseling and mobile vaccinations in schools will be specified. 

Oplan Balik Eskwela Command Center Hotlines

To date, the DepEd has only 37,000 teachers who are not yet inoculated against Covid-19, with around 20,000 of them expressing their willingness to get vaccinated.

Since the DepEd emphasized that there would be no discrimination against unvaccinated teachers, learners, and non-teaching personnel, the DOH said proper ventilation and staggered lunch breaks will be helpful.

DepEd Undersecretary and Chief-of-staff Epimaco Densing III also said the sanitary materials will be available on the school grounds.

“‘Yung mga panlinis ng kamay, sabon, alcohol, ay nandun po sa mga classroom (For handwashing, soap, and alcohol in the classrooms), we will be providing that. In fact, we have already downloaded additional MOOEs to our schools,” he said.

Densing said the budget has also been allotted for face masks reserved for learners who might need these in schools.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) also assured they are just waiting for the approval of the budget to build additional classrooms to address possible overcrowding in some schools.

Besides ensuring safe spaces against Covid-19 risks, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Transportation also vowed to closely monitor public peace and order, as well as transportation availability.

The DepEd expects the majority of public schools to conduct face-to-face learning even before the mandatory in-person set up on November 2.

“Out of the more than 47,000 public schools, we expect that at least 90 percent will already be doing face-to-face. In the prior year, our experience is that 76 percent of all public schools have already had face-to-face classes, and we expect this to rise to 90 percent. About 10 percent will still be blended, and we will coordinate with the local government units to ensure that they will also allow face-to-face at that time,” he said.

Most private schools are expected to continue the blended learning setup.

More than 20.6 million learners have been enrolled just a week before the official reopening of classes. (PNA)