Prospero de Vera III, chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), said the commission is considering opening restricted face-to-face classes for all programs in low-risk areas by January of next year, but that numerous factors are still being considered.
On Friday, the Commission announced that by January, it will investigate whether face-to-face classes would be possible for all programs in areas with low COVID-19 risk.
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According to CHED chairperson Prospero de Vera III, this plan is not yet feasible because only 27 percent of college students nationwide are vaccinated.
Pinagaaralan pa natin yan. Nagsisimula pa lang tayong gumawa ng guidelines,”De Vera said during Friday’s Laging Handa briefing.
(We are still studying that. We are starting to craft the guidelines.)
“Titingnan natin kung anong kalagayan on the ground by January, kung puwede na ito,”he said in a televised public briefing.
(Let us see what the situation on the ground is by January, if this will be possible.)
“Ang tinatarget natin diyan ay matapos ang guidelines maybe November, December at titignan natin kung anong kalagayan on the ground by January kung pwede na ito,”he added.
(We are aiming to finish the guidelines maybe in November, December and we will see the status on the ground if we can allow that in January.)
“Kasi mababa pa ang vaccination level ng mga estudyante, 27 perent pa lang. ‘Di natin pwedeng isugal ang kalagayan nga mga estudyante at ng kanilang pamilya kung mababa ang level ng vaccination,”De Vera further said.
(Because the vaccination level among students is still low, only 27 percent. We can’t risk the welfare of our students and their family because the vaccination rate is still low.)
According to De Vera, the level of risk and vaccination rate of students, faculty members, and other local residents are being considered in the opening of face-to-face classes for all courses.
Aside from having a low COVID-19 risk, the areas where these classes would be implemented should also have a high vaccination rate, adequate public transportation, and the go signal from local governments in charge of contact tracing, according to De Vera.
He also stated that coordination with local governments is required.
“Kasama rin sa usapan ang local government…Hindi pwedeng yung eskwelahan lang yung titignan mo dahil ang mga estudyante ay magbabihaye mula sa kanilang bahay hanggang eskwelahan. Sasakay ng public transportation yan,”
(The local governments are part of the consideration. We can’t just depend on the decision of the institutions because students need to commute from their homes to their schools. They need public transportation for that.)De Vera explained.
“Kung hindi kumbinsido at hindi natin kasama ang local government sa pagpaplano, mahirap hong agad-agad buksan ang mga pamantasan,”said the official.
(If local governments are not convinced and they are not part of the planning, it will be difficult to open universities immediately.)
He believes that questions should be raised about whether public transportation in a given area is capable of adhering to minimum health protocols in order to safely transport students to their respective schools.
“Nabakunahan na ba ang mga tricycle drivers saka mga jeepney driver?”De Vera said.
(Are the tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers already vaccinated?)
“So kailangan mag-ugnayan sa local government, kailangan mataas ang vaccination level hindi lang sa school kundi doon sa lugar, paligid ng eskwelahan,”he added.
(So there is a need to coordinate with the local government, the vaccination level should be high in the area of the schools.)
He stated that coordination with local governments is critical because they will be involved in contract tracing and isolation efforts if a student contracts COVID-19.
“Kapag may nagkasakit diyan, ang sasalo diyan ay hindi lamang eskwelahan, local government din. Kasamang magko-contact trace, magpapa-quarantine ng mga estudyante so kung hindi kumbinsido at hindi natin kasama ang local government sa pagpaplano, mahirap hong agad agad na buksan ang mga pamantasan,”he added.
(If someone gets sick, not only will the school be involved but as well as the local government. They are involved in the contact tracing and in placing students in quarantine so if the local government is not convinced, it will be hard to immediately open the schools.)
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the expansion of limited in-person classes for degree programs requiring “hands-on experience” in higher education institutions located in areas classified as quarantine-free by the government in September.
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