A WEEK before the scheduled August 24 school opening in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) yesterday announced the postponement of the opening of classes to October 5.
The announcement was made by Education Secretary Leonor Briones in a virtual press briefing.
Earlier Briones stood firm on the August opening of school despite several calls for a deferment from several groups – teachers, parents, students , government officials -- due to threats of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“This morning, we received a memorandum from the Office of the President that the President has already made the decision in respect to the recommendation that I have submitted to him on August 6, in response to the implications of imposition of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and in the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal,” Briones said.
“As per the memorandum, the President has given approval to the recommendation of DepEd. Thus, we will implement such a decision to defer school opening to October 5 pursuant to Republic Act No. 11480. We shall use the deferment to provide relief to the logistical limitations faced by the areas placed under MECQ and to fill in the remaining gaps of the school opening that we are currently addressing.
"Areas outside MECQ are directed to continue their orientations, dry runs, and delivery of learning resources so that we will be ready for the opening of classes on October 5.
She added, "We trust that this is the final adjustment of the school opening. Even with the implementation of MECQ, we will use this time to make the necessary adjustments and ensure that all preparations have been made for the successful opening of classes for SY 2020-2021."
Meanwhile, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said the announcement of the deferment of school opening to October 5 is brought about by the clamor of stakeholders grounded on very valid and sound arguments which the agency can no longer deny.
“The decision is what's best for the country but will only go to naught if the requisites for the delivery of safe, accessible, and quality education will not be met,” said ACT President Raymond Basilio.
ACT reiterated the requisites for ensuring the delivery of safe, accessible, and quality education amid the pandemic:
1. Effectively control the spread of the pandemic and address the economic crisis;
2. Ensure the safety of schools by filling in the shortages on facilities, personnel and equipment, and installing comprehensive health protection mechanisms;
3. Provide all the needs of the distance learning modalities;
Two lawmakers welcomed the decision of DepEd to postpone the opening of classes, as they urged the agency to use the next two months in preparing a concrete plans for safe and quality education.
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro are among the lawmakers who called for the postponement of school opening amid the pandemic brought by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
According to Vargas, the two-month postponement of classes will give DepEd, teachers and students ample time to prepare for a more efficient implementation of blended learning.
“The deferment of school opening will benefit all education stakeholders as DepEd will be able to detect and address problems related to blended learning in the run up to October 5. This will result in a more efficient implementation of the ‘new normal’ in education,” Vargas said.
Vargas, a member of the House committee on basic education and culture, had suggested postponing the opening of classes amid concerns from teachers that they’re still unprepared for the new school year.
He also suggested holding pilot tests of various blended learning methods in select schools nationwide before classes start.
The solon added that DepEd will also be able to save funds in the long run since it can allocate resources more efficiently based on the results of dry runs conducted by schools.
"We expect DepEd to use the next two months to fine tune the implementation of its blended learning program," he said.
For her part, Castro said the DepEd must use this time to comprehensively study and implement concrete plans for the safe and quality reopening of schools that will be accessible to every child.
She stressed health and quality of education must not be sacrificed just for the sake of starting the school year.
“With this postponement to October 5, the DepEd must use this time to implement health and safety guidelines for teachers, non-teaching personnel, students and their families. Provide adequate funds for personal protective equipment and transportation to teachers delivering modules and ensure enough modules are printed for every student in the distance self-learning modules,” Castro said.
“The DepEd must also ensure there will be aid for teachers and non-teaching personnel who will contract COVID-19. There are already at least 100 reported cases in NCR, 13 in region IV-A, 21 in region VII and 1 in Region X and II, according to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Philippines,” she also said.
With Jester P. Manalastas