School opening reset to October 5

The opening of classes for school year 2020-2021, scheduled for August 24, has been pushed back to October 5.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday reset the opening on the advice of Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

Go had recommended the postponement to the Department of Education (DepEd) amid concerns about preparations for the blended learning system that will replace the traditional in-person classes to protect students from coronavirus infection.

The alternative learning strategies include online learning, modular learning, and television- and radio-based broadcast.

Duterte canceled physical classes in early March shortly after the Department of Health (DoH) confirmed local transmissions of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)
As of Friday, the Philippines has chalked up 147,526 Covid-19 cases, with 2,426 deaths and 70,387 recoveries.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones 

In a virtual press briefing Friday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the deferment of the school opening would give her department time to address “logistical limitations” in areas under lockdown.

A modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ is being enforced in Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal.

“It’s not as if the teachers and staff will be doing nothing. These activities will continue so we can be better prepared. If there are glitches and challenges that we need to improve, we could fix it during this interregnum,” she said.

Areas outside MECQ are also told to continue their orientations and dry runs, as well as the delivery of learning resources like modules to prepare for the opening of classes on the designated date, Briones added.

Colleges and universities, which are under the supervision of the Commission on Higher Education, are not covered by the postponement, she said.

As of Friday, only 23,274,540 or 83 percent of the expected enrollees have signed up for the school year.

More than 95 percent or 21.61 million are enrolled in public schools.

Go thanked Duterte and Briones for heeding the call to move back the opening of the school year.

“The postponement …will provide the students, teachers, learning institutions and education authorities more time to further prepare for the implementation of flexible or blended modes of learning,” said Go, who chairs the Senate health and demography committee.

Other senators agreed with the school opening postponement.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, chairman of the local government committee, thanked Duterte for the decision.

“Listening to the voices of other sectors especially the parents, teachers and the LGUs (local government units) paved the way for this appropriate and humane decision. The extra days given to DepEd should enable them to prepare more sustainably given the critical situation we are all in,” Tolentino said in a statement.

Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the basic education committee, emphasized that to move the class opening to October 5 “is the most prudent course of action. This is a tough decision to make but the safety of our teachers, learners, personnel and their families should be our utmost priority.”

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro had a different reaction.

The further postponement of classes was an admission on the part of DepEd that it is not prepared for a safe and quality opening of the school year, Castro said.

Castro asked the DepEd to use this time to implement health and safety guidelines for teachers, school personnel, students and their families; provide adequate funds for personal protective equipment and transportation for the distribution of modules; and ensure that adequate modules are printed for every student in the distance self-learning modules.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, a member of the House basic education and culture committee, welcomed the deferment of classes, saying it would “benefit all education stakeholders as DepEd will be able to detect and address problems related to blended
learning.”

Vargas suggested holding pilot tests of various blended learning methods in select schools before classes start to help DepEd allocate resources more efficiently and help it save funds in the long run.

The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Association (Cocopea) said while it was “surprised” with the postponement, it was “ready” to open classes.

“We reiterate that the private education sector is ready for school opening using various teaching and learning delivery modes without face-to-face interaction on campus,” said the group made up of private school said in a statement.

“We stand by the government’s initiatives to put the health of our learners and school personnel in top priority, and this is why we prepared well for online and distance learning modes,” Cocopea added.

Teacher and student organizations were lukewarm to the deferment of the school opening.

The progressive teacher’s group Alliance of Concerned Teachers said the decision was brought about by the “clamor” from stakeholders.

The Teacher’s Dignity Coalition, while echoing the same sentiment, is thankful that the “grievances” of teachers and students were heard.

The National Union of Students in the Philippines said this move is an “admission of failure.”
It said moving back the school opening “is an admission of the unpreparedness for distance learning and a concession that DepEd has not been listening to the concrete demands of the students, teachers, staff and parents for a long time now.”

WITH JAVIER JOE ISMAEL, ARLIE O. CALALO , DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ and JOHN ERIC MENDOZA

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