Select units in UP Diliman are gearing up for the possible resumption of limited in-person classes, as university officials bare plans to have government agencies inspect campus facilities.
The UPD Face-to-Face (F2F) committee told TNP that there are plans to have the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Health and the Quezon City Local Government Unit inspect the facilities of six academic units.
These are the Colleges of Home Economics, Engineering, Music, Science and Social Work and Community Development, along with the Archaeological Studies Program.
In addition, the F2F committee confirmed to TNP that the university is currently revising its draft guidelines for the gradual resumption of face-to-face learning.
This follows a Nov. 5 announcement from CHED chairman Prospero de Vera that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has allowed 50% indoor capacity for face-to-face classes for all degree programs in areas under Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3 under three requirements.
Participating students, faculty and non-teaching personnel must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Campuses must also have their facilities retrofitted and the local government unit must approve the activities.
A Nov. 16 IATF resolution allowed higher education institutions (HEI) under Alert Level 2 to apply for F2F classes from December onwards. HEIs in areas under Alert level 3 may apply from January 2022 onwards.
But in a House committee hearing, De Vera said that schools may opt to take more time to prepare. He assured that the commission is ready to review applications immediately.
“I think many of the schools will do it at the start of second semester kasi hindi na nila mabago ‘yung kanilang mga tinuturo for the first semester kasi patapos na,” De Vera said. “If [the schools] are ready, we can inspect them even tomorrow.”
UPD submitted plans for limited in-person learning to IATF as early as last year, with proposals from the Colleges of Arts and Letters, Home Economics, Engineering, Science and Music, along with the Archaeological Studies Program and the Institute of Islamic Studies.
The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (OVCAA) told TNP that the College of Social Work and Community Development also forwarded requests for in-person classes. The departments of the college confirmed that they have submitted plans as early as November 2020.
But on Oct. 4, the OVCAA said that all requests for face-to-face classes have been rejected.
In an interview with DZUP, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Theresa Payongayong said that the university needs to finalize safety protocols and guidelines before students, faculty and staff can return to campus.
In September, Bakunahan sa Diliman, UPD’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, opened vaccination slots for graduating students from colleges that logged plans for in-person classes. The inoculation program has since expanded to include undergraduate students from all degree programs and students of UP Integrated School.
However, University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Jonas Abadilla said the vaccination program faces challenges with the “small turnout of students, faculty, and staff left to be vaccinated.”
As of end October, UPD’s online vaccination sensing form found that out of 4,838 students who answered, 2,929 are already fully vaccinated while 506 have received their first dose.
Abadilla added that the number of respondents is small compared to UPD’s total student population of almost 24,000.
Safe reopening of classes
On Oct. 4, the OVCAA consulted with UPD students and parents to present a draft of new guidelines for the gradual reopening of face-to-face classes.
However, several weeks after the consultation, the feedback on the revised guidelines are yet to be released.
In light of the IATF’s new policies for F2F classes, the USC sent a letter to the OVCAA on Nov. 19 to immediately publish its guidelines and the concerns raised by stakeholders.
“Due to the limitations set by the remote learning set-up, the necessity and urgency to conduct face-to-face classes are more imperative than ever,” the letter read.
In July, a survey of 9,237 students done by the UP System Committee on Remote Teaching and Learning found that the majority of students and faculty were ‘overwhelmed’ by the remote learning setup.
Five out of ten students were also ‘unsatisfied’ with their remote learning experience.
The USC also had a dialogue with UP President Danilo Concepcion calling for pro-student and pro-community guidelines as the university transitions back to an in-person setup.
Payongayong said that post-pandemic learning will be different from how classes are delivered before the pandemic.
“We envision classes where students take turns in attending face-to-face classes and doing online or remote learning, but this set-up still needs to be discussed,” she said. “Standards might be stricter as health and safety protocols might continue to be implemented henceforth.
With reports by Renz Palalimpa