By Vanne Terrazola
Senators are seeking to defer the opening of classes beyond August this year due to the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Joel Villanueva recently filed similar bills proposing to amend Republic Act No. 7977, which states that “the school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”
Sotto, in his Senate Bill No. 1438, sought to allow the opening of classes in September or any month as may be determined by the President of the Philippines. He filed the bill last Monday, April 27.
“This bill…would give the Department of Education (DepEd) more time and opportunity to prepare and adopt measures for the ‘new normal’ of the education system while helping the government fight the COVID-19 outbreak,” Sotto explained.
“Since what we have at the moment is a health emergency, there are no other views more important than the ones from the medical experts, particularly on the matter of preventing, fighting and eventually, putting an end to this virus. Therefore, the recommendation of the IATF-EID to move the school year to September must necessarily be put into effect,” he added.
President Duterte earlier approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to move the opening of classes for school year 2020-2021 to September.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this was based on a study which showed that children and youth from zero to 20 years of age are possible transmitters of the new coronavirus.
“The national government is doing its best to ‘flatten the curve’ and steps are being undertaken based on medical experts’ studies and assessments. We shall take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all,” Sotto said.
Meanwhile, Villanueva filed Senate Bill No. 1452 to authorize the Secretary of Education to postpone the start of the school year in case of a declaration of a state of emergency, state of calamity or similar occurrence.
Under his proposal, the DepEd shall ensure continuity of education by using alternative modes of learning, such as modular instruction; online, digital or mobile learning; radio or television-based instruction and blended learning; or a combination of these modes.
The DepEd, in coordination with concerned agencies and sectors, shall be required to submit a report to Congress regarding its decision on the opening of school year within one month from making such decision.
“This bill will give the Secretary of Education the flexibility to open the school year 2020-2021 any time after August, especially considering that experts from the UP Resilience Institute have pointed out that the suspension of classes until December or the end of the year would be an effective way to limit further COVID-19 infections,” Villanueva said in a statement.