Anxiety grips parents as schools reopen

December Gonzales, a mother of three, is torn between her children’s health and safety and the need for education as millions of students return to school across the nation on Monday.

“Your mind races, given that there is still Covid and now monkeypox. As a parent, however, you need to provide for their needs, which is education,” she said.

Gonzales is especially worried about her 5-year-old son, Cyruss, who has yet to receive a vaccine.

She said she always reminds her kids to keep their masks on, bring alcohol, and wash their hands frequently.

The anxiety is typical for parents used to having their children take their lessons at home during the height of the pandemic.

Despite the threats posed by Covid-19 and monkeypox, a total of 27.5 million students have already enrolled, according to the Department of Education.

The number could reach 28 million on Monday, the last day of enrolment, said DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa.

“It’s becoming a trend that many still enroll on the last day,” he said. “There are no discussions yet about the extension of the deadline.”

Gonzales said her children will attend classes twice a week, a typical arrangement for schools that still operate blended learning.

However, face-to-face classes in both public and private schools will start in November as mandated by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte under Department Order 34.

All schools are expected to have transitioned to five days in-person classes starting 2 November.

After the date, no school shall be allowed to implement purely distance learning or blended learning except for those implementing Alternative Delivery Modes.

Children are safe to go back to school

The United Nations Children’s Fund maintained that it is safe for children to return to face-to-face classes.

“Global data shows that schools are not main drivers of Covid-19 transmission. Globally, children account for a very small proportion of confirmed Covid-19 cases,” UNICEF said.

“They have milder symptoms compared to adults, and they have not contributed significantly to the proportion of hospitalized cases or reported deaths.”

In the Philippines, children and adolescents comprise a small proportion (9 percent) of the total reported cases, according to UNESCO.

Students get free rides

On Sunday, Light Rail Transit Authority administrator Hernando Cabrera said students will get free rides at LRT2 from 22 August to 5 November as per the directive of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Aside from LRT2, Marcos also authorized MRT3 and the Philippine National Railways to provide free rides to students until November.

Cabrera earlier said that LRT2 is expected to serve 25,000 students a day.

He explained that students only need to present their actual school identification card or original enrollment form to the passenger assistance booth to get their single journey tickets. However, those in graduate school and guardians of students are ineligible for the program.

“The program is from Mondays to Saturdays. We will ask for fees from students on Sundays and holidays when there are no classes,” Cabrera said in the vernacular.

More jeepney routes opened

To address the deluge of students returning to classes, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has opened new and old routes for public utility vehicles.

The LTFRB said it is looking to deploy at least 80 percent of the PUV.

The old routes were discontinued due to the pandemic,

The new routes will accommodate students in the University Belt and other student-heavy areas.

The number of buses plying the EDSA busway will also be increased from 400 to 550, especially during rush hours.

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