With face masks on, hundreds of students returned physically to school on Monday as the Philippines started the resumption of limited face-to-face classes after more than a year of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plastic barriers, social distancing markers, and temperature scanners greeted students and teachers in 100 schools nationwide at the start of the limited face-to-face classes.
"As we take a huge step of reintroducing face-to-face classes amidst the public health situation, we are optimistic that our Bayanihan spirit will live on to ensure the safety of involved stakeholders and the success of this pilot run," the Department of Education said in a statement Monday.
"In the coming weeks, more learners in public and private schools will suit as the President approved to increase the number of pilot participants," it added.
President Rodrigo Duterte in October approved the pilot run of face-to-face classes on the condition that parents and local government units give their approval.
Based on the DepEd's timeline, the pilot face-to-face classes will continue through December and will resume in January after the Christmas break until Jan. 31, 2022. Assessment of the initial run will take place from Nov. 15 to Dec. 22 as the classes are ongoing.
The DepEd will then evaluate the pilot study and present its report to Duterte in February. If all goes well, face-to-face classes may be expanded to other areas starting March 7 next year.
Since last year, the Philippines has been using blended learning with the use of printed modules, online lessons, and radio and television instructions, for the education of students as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in-person classes.
It was only in November this year that the government largely eased restrictions on children, allowing them to go outdoors and dine in restaurants as long as accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent or guardian.