Public schools can also apply for an exemption to hold five-day face-to-face classes beyond November 2, Department of Education spokesperson Michael Poa said on Wednesday.
“If there are public schools that cannot hold 5-days of in-person classes, they may apply for an exemption to their respective Department of Education regional directors,” Poa said.
This was after DepEd announced on Monday that private schools will be exempted from an earlier mandate where all public and private schools must shift to five days of in-person classes beginning next month.
DepEd, through Order No. 44 allows private schools to continue distance and blended learning beyond Nov. 2
Meanwhile, the DepEd has not changed the implementation of five-day in-person classes in public schools despite the detection of 81 cases of the COVID-19 Omicron XBB subvariant and 193 cases of the XBC variant.
“Right now, there is no advice on any change. In fact, we just issued DO 44 on Monday. DepEd will always take its cue from the advice given by the DOH (Department of Health) when it comes to health guidelines or any health concerns,” Poa added in a public briefing.
He added that the department was considerate of the situation in private schools owing to the pandemic, as many of them have invested to switch to online learning.
Many have already developed and institutionalized best practices for blended learning, Poa added.
“But the pandemic found a number of smaller private schools being unable to meet their enrollment targets,” he said.
However, DepEd recognizes studies that found face-to-face classes to be “more advantageous and beneficial” for learners’ academic development and mental health, Poa explained.
“Students learn better from interaction and direct instruction from teachers, and interaction with fellow learners is beneficial,” he said.
Public schools which face limitations in holding 5-day in-person classes can expect a Department Memo from DepEd detailing the bases of granting an exemption from the mandate.
Public schools, meanwhile, are mandated to proceed with the full implementation of in-person classes next month except for those that are expressly provided an exemption by the Regional Director, those whose classes are automatically canceled due to disasters and calamities, and those implementing Alternative Delivery Modes.
With the detection of COVID-19 XBB and XBC, Poa said DepEd is continuing its coordination with the Health Department and other government agencies to monitor the situation in schools.
He also reiterated that DepEd is letting local government units provide data on COVID-19 infections in schools “to give accurate numbers to the public,” amid reports of COVID-19 cases in several educational institutions.
“We don’t want to give conflicting numbers or figures. Also, all cases from schools must be reported to the local epidemiology and surveillance units (LESUs) of our LGUs. We will defer the COVID cases in schools to our LGUs because they are the ones who verify the reported cases and they are also the ones who do the follow up,” Poa said.
Both students and teachers may participate in face-to-face classes regardless of their vaccination status.