DepEd says August still eyed for possible school opening

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Citing results of consultation with its own officials and other stakeholders as well as the existing law on school opening, Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Friday said the Department of Education (DepEd) is still eyeing the month of August as school opening schedule for School Year (SY) 2020-2021.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DepEd / MANILA BULLETIN) Education Secretary Leonor Briones

Briones, in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, said that the concerned internal units of DepEd are still finalizing the Learning Continuity Plan (LCP), which will be used as a basis for decisions on school opening and other education-related concerns amid COVID-19 situation in the country.

“Initial responses of our own people, other stakeholders lean toward August school opening,” Briones said. Aside from the inputs coming from the key officials of DepEd, she also cited that the agency refers to the 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,” which cites that the “school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”

DepEd, Briones said, has also recently-conducted an online survey on school opening for SY 2020-2021. “We had over 800,000 respondents who participated in the survey so we will also take into consideration their feedback on school opening and other matters related to the opening of classes amid COVID-19,” she added.

Briones said that there is no final decision on school opening yet as DepEd is set to present its recommendation on school opening to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Infectious Emerging Diseases (IATF-IED) by next month. “We will present to the IATF our recommendation in May, once the learning continuity plan has been completed, and the IATF will make the final decision on school opening by then,” she explained.

September opening of classes to ‘kill’ smaller private schools

Meanwhile, a group of private schools decried the reported September school opening as announced by Malacanang, noting that its member schools “will cease to exist” if this will be mandated.

The Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) expressed disappointment over the reported declaration of IATF recommending September class resumption as cited by Presidential spokesperson and IATF spokesman Harry Roque Jr.

“When that happens, the problem of private schools may not be the lack of students but lack of teachers it has to be understood that our teachers are hardly included in any amelioration projects of the government,” FAPSA president Eleazardo Kasilag said.

Kasilag alleged that private school employees were left out in COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), the DSWD Emergency Subsidy Program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

“The teachers of our small and medium size member schools are crying for their survival right now,” Kasilag said. Private schools, he noted, “survive on tuition fees” and currently, most of them already have “big collectibles that we missed to get because classes were stopped in March.”

Kasilag said that starting from March, when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) started, to September, the IATF announced school opening, private school teachers will not receive anything.

Unlike public school teachers, whose salaries were given in advance by DepEd for March and April, Kasilag lamented that private school teachers are running low on finances. “How will they survive? these are professional teachers wallowing in poverty,” he added.
Kasilag believes that private schools should be allowed to hold classes as early as June or July via on-line. “We shall hold eLearning classes because some private schools have strong connectivity, most of our students have cell phone or tablets, we have modules for eBooks and our teachers are techie,” he sad. “Why should we wait until September?” he added.

While there is no final decision yet on school opening, Kasilag warned that further delay in school opening will “kill the private schools,” especially the smaller ones. Thus, FAPSA appealed to DepEd under the leadership of Briones to help the private schools as well. “Come to our rescue help us to help you we are partners,” he ended.