Gatchalian urges gov’t to use ‘alert levels’ in opening schools

Gatchalian urges gov’t to use ‘alert levels’ in opening schools

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Alert levels that will be assigned to local government units
(LGUs) should help determine what schools should be opened after the
pilot run of limited face-to-face classes, Senator Win Gatchalian
proposed.

“If businesses and industries can be managed by alert levels, I think
school openings should also be based on alert levels. Because the
concept here is to go back as normal as possible, and the alert levels
give a granular approach to normalcy,” Gatchalian said during a Senate
hearing on the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes.

“Moving forward, to make it easier for everyone, just apply the alert
levels as we are applying it to the business sector,” he added.

Under the guidelines on the pilot implementation of alert levels
system for COVID-19 response, there are five alert levels or
quarantine classifications that may be assigned to cities or
municipalities, with Alert Level 1 being the most relaxed and Alert
Level 5 as the most stringent.

“Alert levels are determined based on factors such as case counts,
transmission, as well as total bed utilization and intensive care unit
utilization rates,” he said.

Gatchalian shared the example of Aklan, which is currently under Alert
Level 2. Out of the 59 schools that so far got the green light to
participate in limited face-to-face classes, only one is from Aklan.

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH)
are eyeing to have 120 schools—100 public schools and 20 private
schools—to participate in the pilot test which is set to begin on
November 15.

In the same hearing, Health Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire
said that it is possible to use alert levels as a basis for school
opening. The health official clarified, however, that looking at the
alert level is only the first step since schools should still pass the
assessment by the DOH. Another requirement is the concurrence of LGUs
on conducting face-to-face classes.

In Adopted Resolution No. 92, which Gatchalian sponsored earlier this
year, the Senate recommended that the Provincial, City and Municipal
School Boards assume the task of assessing and recommending whether to
reopen, adopt selective school or localized lockdowns, and resume
face-to-face classes in their respective localities.

The decision to reopen schools or impose localized lockdowns should
take into consideration local conditions and resources.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and
Culture also reiterated the need to completely vaccinate teachers and
minors aged 12-17 to mitigate the risk of infection when in-person
learning resumes. (ai/mtvn)

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