The Alliance of Concerned Teachers expressed dismay over the reduction of the number of participating schools in the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes.
The group said the steady decline in the Education department’s target from about 1,000 to 500, 120, 59, and finally to just 30 schools “reveals a ‘defeatist trend’ that may ‘very well lead to never re-opening schools.'”
“While it’s unfortunate that the already conservative target of 120 schools upon its approval was further reduced to a mere 30, it is understandable that many are still scared and unprepared to try out physical classes amid the pandemic,” said Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, in a statement.
In September, a joint proposal of the Education department and the Department of Health to conduct pilot face-to-face classes in 120 schools — 100 public schools and 20 private schools — was approved.
On Tuesday, however, the Department of Education said only 30 public schools will proceed to hold limited in-person classes starting November 15.
Education Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma told a media briefing that the number will increase until it reaches the maximum 100 allowed schools.
The 30 schools are those that passed the department’s school safety assessment tool, coming from the 59 public schools initially identified by the Department of Health for the two-month pilot implementation.
ACT’s Basilio, however, said that after nearly two years into the pandemic, “the government has not implemented sound responses to the health crisis.”
He said that crucial to inspiring confidence among key actors in education is the setting up of “strong health protection measures for the implementation of limited face-to-face classes in public schools.”
Basilio said it is the duty of the national government to exhaust all measures to enable local stakeholders to successfully implement the long overdue physical re-opening of schools.
“We cannot keep sliding back on the progress we’ve made so far in the fight for safe school reopening,” he said.
The pilot run of the face-to-face classes is the first step in a three-phased plan to reopen Philippine schools, which have been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic.