UNVACCINATED teachers under the Department of Education (DepEd) can now handle face-to-face classes for the school year 2022-2023, the department’s top official in the region said Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.DepEd Central Visayas (DepEd 7) Director Salustiano Jimenez said they would abide by what Vice President Sara Duterte, the concurrent education secretary, has emphasized on not discriminating against those who remain unvaccinated against coronavirus disease (Covid-19).“For now, VP, Secretary Sara emphasized that they still can, there’s no discrimination. So that’s why we will also implement that,” said Jimenez.During a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday, Aug. 2, DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa said vaccination is voluntary and that there are no separate guidelines for those that are vaccinated and those that are not.“We have a non-discriminatory policy at the Department of Education, meaning for both teaching and non-teaching personnel as well as our learners themselves, we will not discriminate. Wala pong separate guidelines for those that are vaccinated and those that are unvaccinated. So voluntary pa rin po ang pananaw natin sa vaccination,” said Poa. (Our view is that vaccination is still voluntary.)Jimenez noted that they had implemented the pronouncement of then education secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, observing the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases resolution last school year, wherein teachers could not handle classes but could still report to school provided they can submit either a negative rapid antigen or negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result every two weeks.The regional director, however, said they still had to clarify with the central office if the unvaccinated teachers could still handle face-to-face classes if they could not submit a negative Covid-19 test result.“But at our level, we’ll just do some strategizing nga ang atong mga (so that our) teachers before they can handle classes, ato silang makoanan og (we can have them undergo an) antigen test para ang mga ginikanan pod dili mo-feel og worry (so that the parents won’t worry),” said Jimenez.Free testsThis is why DepEd 7 has coordinated with the local government units which could at least provide free Covid tests for the unvaccinated teachers who reportedly do not want to spend for the tests themselves.Jimenez earlier said the unvaccinated teachers bear the costs of their Covid tests while the government shoulders the cost for those who were advised by their doctors not to get inoculated due to their illnesses.Last July 12, the Cebu Provincial Government turned over 10,000 antigen test kits donated by Limdaqui Trading to the DepEd 7. Jimenez thanked Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for the donation, calling the test kits an “answered prayer” for unvaccinated teachers who could now get their Covid tests for freeWhile he could not yet give the exact data for the entire region Wednesday, Jimenez said only 511 teaching and non-teaching personnel across Cebu Province remained unvaccinated against Covid-19 out of the 22,000 personnel.Central Visayas has about 77,000 teaching personnel while there are about 4,000 non-teaching personnel in public schools.He said the common reasons unvaccinated teachers eligible to get vaccinated refuse vaccination were their faith as well as fear of injection.Jimenez reiterated that vaccination is not required for students to join the face-to-face classes; however, they strongly encourage the students and others concerned to have themselves vaccinated against Covid-19 for their own protection.He further said there may come a time when parents complain why unvaccinated teachers are allowed to handle face-to-face classes.Poa said the Education Department will coordinate with the Department of Health for the establishment of mobile vaccination sites for those who would like to get vaccinated against Covid-19.The opening of classes will be on Aug. 22.But all public and private elementary and secondary schools will have to resume the conduct of the five-day face-to-face classes by November this year regardless of the alert level status in their respective areas.