Negative Covid-19 test result not required in schools

·4 min read

UNVACCINATED teachers are no longer required to present either a negative rapid antigen or negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result every two weeks in order to handle face-to-face classes.

This was what Salustiano Jimenez, director of the Department of Education in Central Visayas (DepEd 7), told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, August 17, 2022.

Jimenez said this was the initial pronouncement of DepEd Central Office, but they are still awaiting the issuance of the order.

“Now, if they can present, much better. But as of now, we are waiting for the release or issuance of that. Even if they will not be presenting the negative antigen test or RT-PCR, they can still handle classes provided they are always wearing the face masks,” said Jimenez.

The regional director on August 3 confirmed that unvaccinated teachers under the Education department can now handle face-to-face classes for the school year 2022-2023, which is about to open on August 22.

He said they will abide by what Vice President Sara Duterte, the concurrent education secretary, has emphasized on not discriminating against those who remain unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Vaccination campaign

Jimenez said they are doing a mass vaccination campaign for all their stakeholders, including unvaccinated teachers, parents, and learners, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) and local government units (LGUs).

They are also doing one-on-one counseling in schools and divisions to all those who remain unvaccinated so they can at least reconsider and change their minds.

Jimenez said they will also allow the usage of the schools for the mass vaccination campaign momentarily, particularly in urban areas.

Central Visayas has about 77,000 teaching personnel while there are about 4,000 non-teaching personnel in public schools.

Preparation for F2F classes

Meanwhile, Jimenez said on August 15 that they are now going full blast in their preparation for the opening of classes on Monday, August 22.

He said all the teaching and non-teaching personnel, including other stakeholders, are now doing their best to prepare the schools to ensure the safety of the students.

While he admitted that some of the schools in the region lack classrooms, Jimenez assured that they are ready to accommodate all their learners.

“Because if we lack classrooms, we instructed our schools, our division offices to have some strategies like shiftings,” said Jimenez.

He said they will break the total number of students into two sections (one in the morning and the other in the afternoon) to address the shortage of classrooms.

He also said that they already coordinated with LGUs and non-government organizations (NGOs) for the temporary learning space to ensure the observance of the minimum health protocols, such as social distancing.

Central Visayas has about 3,000 public schools in 20 divisions, while there are less than 1,000 private schools.

Jimenez, however, could not yet give the exact number of classrooms that are ready for the face-to-face classes and those that are being repaired.

He said the repairs of school facilities are ongoing across Central Visayas, although the majority of facilities damaged by Typhoon Odette in December 2021 have already been fixed.

The regional director said more than P1 billion was downloaded from the DepEd Central Office since the typhoon hit the schools in Central Visayas.

Jimenez on August 3 said they still need about P2 billion for the repair of more than 2,000 damaged classrooms.

He said he is expecting that majority of the damaged classrooms will be repaired prior to the opening of classes next week, as he noted that all sectors, not just in the government but also NGOs, are doing their share to address such concern.

He said shifting is what they are proposing for the full implementation of face-to-face classes this coming November, adding that students would still go to school five days a week.

Brigada Eskwela

Jimenez said all the division offices have been conducting Brigada Eskwela.

The objective of Brigada Eskwela is to see and check the school preparations prior to the start of classes, including the facilities’ safety for all the stakeholders, particularly the learners.

With this, Jimenez expressed gratitude to all stakeholders, particularly the parents, saying they are doing their share to assist and support the Brigada Eskwela.

As of August 12, DepEd already has about 1.6 million enrollees in both public and private schools in the region out of about two million target for the school year (SY) 2022-2023.

Jimenez expressed hope that they will be nearing the expected and target number of enrollees as they expect more enrollment on August 15 and 16. (MKG)