The Department of Education (DepEd) on Jan. 13 has allowed its local officials to declare suspension of classes and other teaching-related activities at their discretion in light of the steady increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.
In DepEd's memorandum released Jan. 13, it gave regional offices and schools division offices an option to call off school activities in January "based on their reliable assessment of the health status of their teachers and learners and the (Inter-Agency Task Force) classification" in their respective areas.
The agency noted that class suspension shall not exceed two weeks "in order to avoid a prolonged disruption in the current school calendar."
During suspension, all synchronous and asynchronous classes shall be put on hold, while submission of academic requirements and conduct of other teaching-related activities must be moved to a later date.
For late submission of requirements, DepEd said, accommodations must be afforded for those with valid reasons.
As for private schools, DepEd said they may exercise their own discretion "relative to the suspension of classes and K to 12 learning activities when COVID-19 risks in their respective areas are high," in consultation with their respective parents' associations.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), meanwhile, clarified that the resumption of limited physical classes of higher education institutions (HEIs) in areas under Alert Level 3 by Jan. 31 is only a "reference point" and therefore optional.
"Depende iyan sa kalagayan on the ground ng mga pamantasan, konsultasyon nila sa local government units, kondisyon ng facilities, konsultasyon sa faculty at mga students," said CHEd chairman Prospero de Vera III in a Jan. 13 Laging Handa briefing.
"Handa na actually ang mga university natin, nakapag-retrofit na, bakunado na ang mga estudyante (at faculty)," De Vera said. "Hinihintay na lang natin na humupa itong surge."
As of Jan. 11, CHED said over 85% of HEI faculty and employees and 60% of students have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
De Vera added that he also met with over 200 university officials in the past week, and the majority of them who are in areas under Alert Level 3 areas, he said, have decided that they'll opt for a February opening of limited in-person classes.
"Iyong iba naman, magbubukas online, tapos magshi-shift sa limited face to face classes pag okay na," he said.
Universities in Central and Eastern Visayas, as well as in Caraga regions, however, wouldn't begin the term immediately as they're still fixing their facilities due to the aftermath Typhoon Odette.
Under Alert Level 3, colleges and universities may only have up to 30% indoor venue capacity and 50% outdoor capacity for fully-vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated students are not allowed to attend.
CHEd has yet to release its list of HEIs that applied for the reopening of classes in Alert Level 3.
Last Jan. 12, the Department of Health reported 32,245 new daily COVID-19 cases, following last Jan. 10's highest ever 33,169 fresh daily infections in a single day since the onset of the pandemic.
That day's active case count also set another all-time high, at 208,164. The last time the country's active case count surpassed the 200,000 mark was during April 17, 2021, when it logged 203,710 cases.