Gatchalian reminds school officials; strictly enforce health protocols, alternative work arrangements

To prevent the uptick of COVID-19 cases now that teachers and non-teaching staff are expected be out in the field to distribute modules or report to their respective schools, Senator Win Gatchalian urged public school officials to strictly enforce the Department of Education’s (DepEd) alternative work arrangements and health protocols to make teachers and personnel less vulnerable to infection.

Gatchalian made this call after 10 high school teachers in Ilagan City, Isabela tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a meeting. Two students also contracted the virus.

Ilagan City is under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until October 16.

For Gatchalian, what happened in Ilagan should remind school officials to uphold the safety of teachers, other school personnel, and students to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

He pointed out that since tasks such as the printing and distribution of SLMs put teachers and non-teaching staff at risk, they should be equipped with “back-to-school” essentials such as masks, face shields, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

He also reiterated that should teachers and staff contract COVID-19, their health care needs should be given immediate attention.

“Ngayong nagsimula na ang klase, lalo nating dapat tutukan ang kalusugan ng bawat guro at non-teaching staff lalo na’t sila ang nagsisilbing mga frontliners sa pagpapatupad ng distance learning sa gitna ng pandemya,” said Gatchalian.

DepEd Order No. 011 s. 2020 identifies alternative work arrangements such as work-from-home, skeleton workforce, four-day workweek, and staggered working hours.

In areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), which is the quarantine status of most areas in the Philippines, schools and DepEd offices may operate at full operational capacity as may be allowed by required health standards, including physical distancing protocols.

In areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) like Metro Manila, however, personnel reporting physically for work should not exceed 50 percent.

To help with early detection of possible COVID-19 cases, DepEd’s required health standards, which are outlined in DepEd Order No. 014 s. 2020, mandate schools and offices to have a provision of referral services that will link learners, teachers, and personnel to the appropriate health facilities.

Under its required health standards, DepEd is also tasked to coordinate with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and work out a possible institutional arrangement.

Since classes are in full swing, Gatchalian said that an arrangement between DepEd and PhilHealth should already be operational to inspire and sustain the confidence of teachers and non-teaching staff in the roll-out of distance learning.

“Kailangang siguruhin natin ang kanilang kaligtasan sa kanilang pagtatrabaho at kung sakali namang tamaan sila ng sakit, dapat matiyak natin na makatatanggap sila ng agarang tulong medikal,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.