By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
While uncertainties hound the opening of next school year, the Department of Education (DepEd) assured that contingency measures are being planned and prepared to ensure that the learning of millions of students under its wing will continue amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a recent press conference, admitted that the “final decision” on school opening will depend on the outcome of the enhanced community quarantine currently in place to curb the disease. She noted, however, that the DepEd’s Curriculum and Instruction (CI) has already laid out various “plans” designed to respond to the challenges brought about COVID-19 and the quarantine.
“In our curriculum, we have come up with Plans A, B, and so on,” Briones said when asked what preparations were being undertaken by DepEd for the opening of schoolyear (SY) 2020-2021. “So far, we assume that our calendar will be followed but we also know that anything can happen so as early as now, there are contingency measures being undertaken,” she explained.
DepEd’s curriculum group is leading the mapping out of contingency plans for the opening of the coming school year, according to Briones. “The concerned agencies are coordinating regularly for contingency measures for the school opening,” she added.
Uncertainties surround school opening
With Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine still in place, DepEd undersecretary and spokesperson Nepomuceno Malaluan said that “there is a lot of uncertainty yet with respect to the opening of classes.”
Currently, the “curriculum review” is ongoing. “But with respect to the opening of classes, there is still a lot of contingencies there based on how this enhanced community quarantine will help resolve the situation,” he explained.
Nepomuceno said that DepEd has also asked the Department of Health (DOH) for “any forward models they have, so we can make forward plans but as you know, this is developing and unfolding day by day.”
Asked if there is a possibility to move the opening of the SY 2020-2021 to a later date, Nepomuceno said there is still no definite decision so far. “That's very contingent because right now the focus of the Inter-agency Task Force is on the enhanced quarantine period,” he said.
Nepomuceno added that if there is “failure to contain” the disease and the country remains be under Code Red, Sub-level 2, “then part of that is we will not be able to continue with classes.” He said that at this point, this is “not something that is within the direct control” of the DepEd.
Meanwhile, Malaluan noted that it is still “fortunate that we were already at the end point of the school year, and that's why we were able to immediately make adjustments toward the final quarter requirements for the school year.” He explained that if the health crisis happened at the start of the school year, “then that would have been a totally different situation.”
Malaluan reiterated that if the health and public health condition “will mean that we will not be able to hold classes, then we will obviously have to adjust accordingly,” explaining that possible adjustments to be made will have to be more thoroughly studied first.
Based on Republic Act No. 7977 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) days to not more that Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days,” the “school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.” If followed, the opening of classes for basic education level in public schools this coming SY 2020-2021 should be on June 1.