By Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – The Department of Education (DepEd)-Negros Occidental has defended the move of Negros Occidental High School (NOHS) to refuse entry of unvaccinated teachers and personnel.
In a statement, DepEd-Negros Occidental said it firmly believes that the decision of NOHS Principal IV Josette Terora to deny admission of the 13 unvaccinated personnel was solely based on the DepEd policy, and not on any willful desire to discriminate them given that vaccination is not mandatory.
The department issued the statement after these unvaccinated personnel aired out their sentiments to the media when they were prohibited from entering the campus on March 1 for their failure to present a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) as a requirement for personnel who were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
“As the school administrator, she (Ms. Terora) is duty-bound to comply all issuances of the Department to ensure the health and safety of all personnel and that of the learners when face-to-face classes resume,” the statement said.
The DepEd-Negros Occidental, said that it recognized the effort of Ms. Terora to strictly implement DepEd Task Force coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Memorandum No. 575 dated December 7, 2021.
The memorandum is titled Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) Vaccination Requirement for Personnel Reporting On-site Beginning December 1, 2021 which is based on the IATF Resolution No. 148-B.
It mandates that “in areas where there are sufficient supplies of COVID-19 vaccines as determined by the National Vaccines Operation Center (NVOC), all establishments and employers in the public and private sector shall require their eligible employees who are tasked to do on-site work to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Eligible employees who remain to be unvaccinated may not be terminated solely by reason thereof. However, they shall be required to undergo RT-PCR tests regularly at their own expense for purposes of on-site work. Provided that, antigen tests may be resorted to when RT-PCR capacity is insufficient or not immediately available.”
However, considering that there are still no guidelines on “how to handle the attendance records of personnel who cannot be accommodated in the school premises, despite being required to report onsite, due to failure to present proof of vaccination or valid negative RT-PCR/antigen test result” and that the Civil Service policy on Alternative Work Arrangement (AWA) is still in place, the local Department said that all schools in the Division will still adhere to AWA regardless of the alert level status until such time that DepEd, Civil Service Commission (CSC) or Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines specific to attendance will be implemented.
DepEd-Negros Occidental also said that it continues to appeal to its personnel to submit themselves to vaccination for their own protection from being infected with the virus, and as part of the preparation for the eventual return to face-to-face classes.