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Senators back physical classes amid pandemic

Three senators on Friday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to consider opening schools for face-to-face classes to improve learning amid a coronavirus pandemic.

“Educators can work safely in schools and schools can actually be the safest place for children during a pandemic,” Senator Imee R. Marcos said, citing data from other countries.

“Infection levels in schools merely reflect infection levels in their communities,” she told a hearing of the Senate committee on basic education.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier banned face-to-face classes until a vaccine for the coronavirus is found. Virtual classes in both private and public schools started in September and October.

Ms. Marcos said online classes have caused learning gaps, not to mention the effects on student’s mental health, and the added burden on working parents.

She said school boards or Education authorities of local governments should decide whether to allow face-to-face classes.

Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay backed face-to-face classes in some areas, noting that even the government had allowed travel to tourist destinations such as Boracay and Baguio.

“At the moment, students can travel and we allow them to go to Boracay, we allow them to go to Baguio, yet we don’t allow them to go to schools,” she told the hearing in mixed English and Filipino.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the committee, pushed for face-to-face classes at least in communities without COVID-19 cases.

Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan said they would consider the recommendations when it submits its next report to the President.

Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones said face-to-face learning would remain limited and would depend on the advice of the Health department and the inter-agency task force.

“We will report to the President what has been our experience with the opening of classes on Oct. 5 and what issues came out,” she told a separate online news briefing in mixed English and Filipino. “One of these is the possibility of limited face-to-face classes,” she added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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