MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is prohibiting face-to-face classes only in areas that will remain under community quarantine by Aug. 24, Malacañang said Tuesday after he said he would not allow the resumption of physical classes without a vaccine against COVID-19.
Face-to-face classes will only be allowed in areas where community quarantines are lifted totally by Aug. 24 -- the scheduled opening of classes, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
"Habang wala pang bakuna at habang wala pa tayo sa new normal, 'yung wala na pong community quarantine, hindi pa rin po tayo magkakaroon ng face-to-face na mga klase," Roque said in a virtual press briefing.
(While there is no vaccine yet and while we have yet to reach the new normal, where there are no more community quarantines, we will not have face-to-face classes.)
"The bottom line is: we will not compromise the health of our youth," he added.
In a tweet, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said: “As long as minimum health standards are met, schools can open. If standards are not met, best to wait for a vaccine.”
In a separate statement, Duque also said that the government will not risk allowing children to go back to school “until there is a vaccine.”
“Together with DepEd, we will explore alternative means to modify classes for safe physical distancing,” he added.
The Philippines has set up 4 levels of community quarantines--enhanced, modified enhanced, general, and modified general-- before the "new normal," where restrictions will be fully eased and only minimum health standards should be observed.
Currently, all parts of the country remain under community quarantine on varying levels.
If community quarantine measures are still in place by Aug. 24, Roque said schools would have to make use of "blended learning" in place of physical classes.
"Kung hindi po talaga dumating ang new normal at hindi po talaga ma-lift ang mga community quarantines, hindi naman po ibig sabihin ma hindi na mag-aaral ang ating mga kabataan, mayroon po tayong tinatawag na blended learning," he said.
(If the new normal hasn't come and we cannot lift the community quarantines, it doesn't mean that our students would no longer study. We have blended learning.)
Roque said all platforms of teaching would be used for blended learning such as television, radio, and online instructions.
Asked how the government plans to address the problem of students who have limited access to technology, Roque said "makeshift classrooms" could be established.
"Kung kinakailangan magkakaroon siguro tayo ng makeshift classrooms using radio or TV sa iba't-ibang barangay center kung saan pupuwede talaga magkaroon ng social distancing," he said.
(If needed, we might have makeshift classrooms using radio or TV in different barangay centers where social distancing can be practiced.)
The Department of Education (DepEd) had said that it was studying the possibility of combining online and classroom learning for the next school year as the world continued to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
— With a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News