“Additional health protocols are necessary for the opening of schools”

SCHOOL openings must also be accompanied by a vaccination program and contact tracing measures to ensure children, teachers and non-teaching staff are safe from Covid-19, economist says from De La Salle University (DLSU).

In a guidance note titled “Education in the Time of Covid: Bridging Inequalities in Access to Opportunities,” DLSU School of Economics assistant professor Paulynne J. Castillo said that a school-based vaccination program and a community transmission surveillance system should be added to the health and safety protocols in schools.

Castillo said these programs would help keep schools open, especially those included in the Department of Education’s (DepEd) face-to-face learning pilot modality for a longer period. This will ensure that education losses associated with closures are avoided in the short to medium term.

“Ensuring that schools in these priority regions can keep their doors open longer despite the continued threat of Covid-19 could also be achieved by helping them set up school-based vaccination programs and surveillance systems. community transmission in schools, ”Castillo said. .

Castillo added that with public schools piloting face-to-face learning, the government should also promote immunization and tackle vaccine reluctance in communities through students and their families.

She said DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) should conduct information campaigns that promote confidence in vaccines and institutionalize policies to support those participating in immunization programs.

These policies allow school personnel to go on sick leave and excuse students who are absent after receiving their vaccine doses. These types of policies have previously been recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the United States Department of Education.

In terms of monitoring Covid-19 transmissions, Castillo said, the country can adopt the color-coded matrix designed by the CDC to categorize community transmissions of Covid-19 based on the total number of new cases per 100,000 people in the country. over the past seven days.

Based on the system, she said schools in low transmission communities, sports and extracurricular activities will be allowed as long as participants observe at least six feet of physical distance.

In areas with moderate or high transmission, Castillo said schools can conduct screening or expanded testing for students at least once a week.

“Schools reopened in the Philippines – with help from DepEd, DOH and relevant local government units – can use a similar system as a basis to expand learning opportunities while protecting the health and safety of institutions and communities. to which they belong, ”Castillo said.

Castillo said school closures due to Covid-19 have resulted in a significant drop in enrollment, preventing 2.73 million students from studying in the 2020-2021 school year.

In order to respond to the problems created by online distance education and with the decline in Covid-19 cases, the government has decided to allow face-to-face lessons in 120 schools. This is made up of 100 public schools and 20 private schools as of November 15.

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