By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday announced that national, regional, and off-campus activities that were suspended temporarily due to the threat of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may resume starting next week.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones issued DepEd Memo (DM) No. 23, series of 2020 or the “Third Set of Policy Directives on COVID-19” which states that “all DepEd units may already resume the conduct of national, regional, and/or off-campus activities” starting Feb. 24, “provided all precautionary measures” identified by DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) are “strictly followed.”
In particular, DepEd noted that the organizers should “ensure adequate supply of water and soap in schools, and hand sanitizers and/or rubbing alcohol at entrances of schools and offices.” Likewise, DepEd noted that cleanliness, including the regular disinfection of door knobs and handles, should be maintained.
The memo also says that all policy directives and measures contained in DM 15, s. 2020 titled “First Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force nCoV” and DM 21, s. 2020 titled “Second Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force nCoV” are sustained.
Briones, in the latest memo, also noted that the travel measures and restrictions as stipulated in Enclosure No. 2 to DM 15, s. 2020 shall “remain in effect.” Thus, all personnel and learners who decide to proceed with their scheduled personal travels for the month of February to countries identified to have confirmed cases of COVID-19 “shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of arrival in the Philippines.”
Meanwhile, DepEd noted that all learners on quarantine, as well as learners excused from attending school-based activities that involve congregation of learners, “shall not be marked absent” provided that they are being given Alternative Delivery Modes (ADMs) of education.
DepEd has also instructed schools to dedicate weekends to school-wide general cleaning and intensified disinfection efforts, and to utilize their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) to “effectively execute the protective measures” enclosed in DM 15, s. 2020.
DepEd also “highly encouraged” private schools to adopt the precautionary measures contained in its memoranda pertaining to its response to the COVID-19.
Earlier, DepEd ordered the suspension of activities involving all learners and teachers, particularly the national and regional activities scheduled this February.
In particular, among the national activities that were suspended were the National Science and Technology Fair (NSTF), the National Festival of Talents (NFOT), and the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC).
Off-campus activities such as educational tours and field trips were also suspended until further notice. DepEd also directed its officials and personnel to refrain from travelling to countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
DepEd also continues to monitor learners and personnel who may be at risk due to COVID-19, and assured that ADMs of education were given to quarantined learners who have exhibited symptoms such as fever, cough, and colds and other contagious infections.
Suspension of classes
DepEd allowed its local officials to declare suspension of classes as a preventive measure against the COVID-19, especially in areas where there are confirmed cases.
As cited in DepEd Memo No. 21 series of 2020 or the Second Set of Policy Directives of the DepEd Task Force nCoV (COVID-19), regional directors (RDs), school division superintendents (SDSs), and school heads “are authorized to suspend classes” based on several conditions.
DepEd said its local officials, in coordination with their respective local government units (LGUs) and health authorities, may declare class suspension if “one school has confirmed one positive case” of COVID-19 and “if two or more schools in one city or municipality have a confirmed a positive case” of COVID-19.
The SDSs can also declare the suspension of classes in the affected schools and adjacent areas or, depending on the local situation, in the entire city or municipality.
The SDSs can also declare the suspension of classes if “there is a community-level transmission in a city or municipality or several cities or municipalities” and “if there is a community level transmission in two or more provinces.”
In this case, the RDs “can declare the suspension of classes in the affected provinces or, depending on the local situation, in the entire region.”