TEACHERS and non-teaching school personnel who will participate in the two-month pilot study on limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas are expected to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), officials said Monday, September 27, 2021.
In Central Visayas, however, only around half of the public school teachers are fully vaccinated so far, although the figures are higher in the Cebu tri-cities.
Although the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act, or Republic Act 115251, does not require citizens to receive the vaccine, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said she was advised by their legal department that “the state has the right to impose mandatory precautions” when the safety and survival of the state from a pandemic are at stake.
“I believe that if we go ahead with this pilot study, we should ensure that whoever--the teachers, the staff, the officials--will deal with the children will be vaccinated,” she said during the signing Monday of a joint memorandum circular by the DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) on the guidelines for the resumption of face-to-face classes.
The pilot study will involve 120 schools consisting of 95 public elementary schools, five senior high schools and 20 private schools which will pass the readiness and risk assessments being conducted by the DepEd and DOH. No target date for the implementation of the pilot run has been set.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the vaccine cluster of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases headed by vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has already issued an advisory to fast-track the vaccination of all teachers and non-teaching school personnel.
DepEd Planning Service Director Roger Masapol, in his presentation of the guidelines for the pilot study, said “all school personnel that will be involved (in the pilot run) must be fully vaccinated.”
School personnel must also be under 65 years old and have no comorbidities.
The DepEd is also coordinating with the local government units to ensure that participating learners have completed their routine infant vaccinations.
The joint memorandum circular states that only one teacher will be assigned per class for kindergarten to Grade 3 to limit the number of people who will have close contact with the learners while they are in school.
Face-to-face classes will be held every other week, alternating with distance learning sessions through online classes or modules. The class size for the face-to-face classes has been reduced, as follows: Kinder--12 learners; Grade 1 to 3--16 learners; Senior High School--20 learners in a classroom; Technical/vocational workshops--12 learners.
Kindergarten learners will stay in school for up to three hours only; the rest can stay for up to 4.5 hours.
Participating learners must have a signed consent from a parent and must have no comorbidities. Those living in the same city or town where the school is located are preferred.
Only subjects that require laboratories/workshops for senior high school will be allowed for face-to-face. The rest of the subjects will be held through distance learning modality.
In Central Visayas, education officials said at least 50 to 60 percent of public school teachers were fully vaccinated as of Sept. 27, 2021.
Dr. Salustriano Jimenez, Deped 7 director, said in Cebu, school divisions in the three highly urbanized cities are now close to 100 percent in terms of teacher vaccination.
In Cebu City, around 85 percent of teachers are fully vaccinated. In Mandaue City, the figure is 83 percent, while in Lapu-Lapu City, it’s around 70 percent, Jimenez said.
But Jimenez said some school divisions in Central Visayas have not reached 50 percent vaccination. This includes Cebu Province, which reported only at least 40 percent of its teachers getting Covid-19 jabs.
Jimenez said the reasons why some public school teachers in the Province have not gotten their jabs range from vaccine supplies not reaching their areas to their refusal to get jabbed because of misinformation.
Jimenez said they can’t force teachers to get vaccinated.
“We can’t sanction them for refusing to get vaccinated. But we can encourage them to do so,” he said.
Dr. Marilyn Andales, Schools Division Superintendent of DepEd Cebu Province, told SunStar on Sept. 24, 2021 that she encouraged the teachers in the three Cebu schools in the final list of schools in Central Visayas for the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes, to get vaccinated.
These are the Luyong Baybay Elementary School in Bantayan town, Bantayan Island; Basak Elementary School in Samboan town; and Pilar National High School in Pilar in the Camotes Islands. (MVI / SunStar Philippines , JKV, MVE)