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Safe school reopening plan needed

Senator Win Gatchalian said the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) should have a “safe school reopening plan” to prevent another surge of COVID-19 cases.


VALENZUELA CITY, Philippines – Students participate in cleaning their campus at the Malinta National High School during the annual Brigada Eskwela, a nationwide initiative that prepares schools for resumption of classes, May 2015 file image. Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture chair Senator Win Gatchalian said the government should have a “safe school reopening plan” and a menu of intervention schemes to prevent another surge of COVID-19 cases. Photo by Rodrigo de Guzman/Valenzuela City PIO/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

While the DepEd has yet to finalize the opening of classes for the School Year (SY) 2020-2021, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture said it is important to establish that local communities or barangays are free from COVID-19. He also emphasized the need to ensure thorough disinfection of schools, especially those that served as quarantine and treatment facilities. New supplies of books and equipment must also be provided.

The senator said that since half of COVID-19 patients tend to be asymptomatic, learners, teachers, and other school personnel need to be cleared by local health officers or by any DOH-accredited medical facility. He added that the government, through the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) or Local Government Units’ (LGUs) public-private partnerships on mass testing, should continue to shoulder the cost of testings.

Safe school reopenings, he said, should have the appropriate policies and guidelines such as regular temperature checks on students and school personnel. If students or anyone feel unwell with a cough, fever or sore throat, they should immediately be isolated and sent home or to a health facility.

Gatchalian suggests limiting physical interaction between teachers and students as much as possible and maintaining social distancing measures when school reopens. These include a ban on gatherings of more than 20 people in spaces as big as regular classrooms.

For the lawmaker, interventions and systems should be in place to ensure everyone’s safety when classes open again. Schools should have adequate safe water supply, hand washing stations, and public health supplies such as alcohol, sanitizers, and thermometers. Public health programs on basic measures such as handwashing, basic hygiene, and vaccination should continue in schools too, he added.

Gatchalian likewise raised the need for teachers to be trained on emergency response in the event of infection and transmission in schools. He also said that should future rounds of school closures occur, DepEd must be ready to roll out a contingency plan to ensure the safety of learners and foster the continuity of learning.

“Ang kaligtasan ng ating mga mag-aaral, mga guro, mga magulang, at mga kawani ng mga paaralan ang ating prayoridad sa pagpapasya kung kailan muling magbubukas ang klase ngayong taon. Mahalagang masiguro natin na may tamang paggabay ang ating mga paaralan at may sapat silang kakayahan na magpatupad ng mga polisiyang itataguyod ang ating kaligtasan mula sa COVID-19,” said Gatchalian.