The Department of Education (DepEd) is preparing for the possibility of a January 2021 reopening of physical classes, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

However, it would be up to President Rodrigo Duterte to give the green light.

“Patuloy naman po ang paghahanda [para sa face-to-face classes] bagama’t ang desisyon po ay talagang magiging desisyon pa rin ni presidente,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque told reporters.

The government earlier reported that it aimed to have the entire country under modified general community quarantine, the least stringent among quarantine classifications, by the first quarter of next year.

Duterte, under the impression that a Covid-19 vaccine would be available by September this year, said in July that he would allow physical classes in low-risk areas by January 2021. 

The following conditions were set by the government in July for the conduct of face-to-face classes:

  • Face-to-face classes will be allowed only in low-risk areas, or those already at least under modified general community quarantine or in the transition phase between general community quarantine and the new normal.
  • Face-to-face classes will be allowed in January 2021, or the third quarter of the school year. Private schools that have started limited face-to-face classes in June will be allowed to continue.
  • Decisions to allow limited, localized face-to-face classes will be made in coordination with the Department of Education, local government units and the local health authorities.
  • Stringent health standards will be followed.
  • There will be pilot-testing and inspection jointly with the National Task Force Against Covid-19 for observance of required health standards and protocols.

The “stringent health standards” were as follows:

  • No mask, no entry policy in school premises
  • Hand washing and hand hygiene
  • Regular disinfection in school premises
  • Checking for temperature and respiratory symptoms
  • Reduction in class size to 15 to 20 and physical arrangement of seats conforming to required distances
  • Intermittent attendance to school only, to complement distance learning
  • Controls of flow of learners and personnel in entrance and exit
  • No mass gatherings
  • Visible instructions, signages and markings
  • Preparedness and case management system in coordination with LGUs and local health authorities for contact tracing, isolation and treatment 

The country has recorded 387,161 Covid-19 cases as of Nov. 3. John Ezekiel J. Hirro