By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Education Secretary Leonor Briones clarified that the announced school opening for School Year (SY) 2020-2021 on August 24 includes both public and private schools at the basic education level nationwide.
“I want to clarify that the opening on Aug 24 is for public and private [schools],” Briones said, after announcing in a virtual public briefing earlier that the opening of the next school year has been moved from June to August due to COVID-19 crisis.
Briones explained that with the schools reopening after a prolonged quarantine, learning will be done in various modes, depending on the local public health situation. “Opening can be face-to-face or virtual depending on decisions of the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force],” she said.
Public and private schools have been closed since March as a precautionary measure against the threat of the COVID-19. Briones said that DepEd has decided to delay the coming school opening and moved it to August in an effort ensure the safety and welfare of both teachers and students.
Schools may use the months prior to the August opening to prepare for the so-called “new normal” involving the use of flexible learning options and other multimodal learning approaches due to the limitations brought about by the pandemic. “No need for face-to-face if not allowed by IATF,” Briones added.
Can private schools open earlier?
As allowed by the Republic Act No. 7797 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.”
Traditionally, public schools open in June every year while private schools start their classes either in July or August since they are allowed to “deviate” from the school calendar prescribed by DepEd.
“Private schools who want to open in June may do so if allowed by IATF and DOH [Department of Health] guidelines,” Briones said. However, she stressed that “no face-to-face” classes will be allowed should private schools decide to start their classes in June to adhered to the protocols set by the authorities.
Earlier, the Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) said that its member schools are eyeing opening of classes in June as they are “ready to implement” various teaching and learning strategies.
After consulting with its member-schools, FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag said that many of them “declared intention to open most classes” for SY 2021-2021 in June.
“FAPSA member schools have sound connectivity and the students have the required gadget to allow them to catch up with modular lessons installed in the gadget,” Kasilag said. “Some private schools have been doing this tablet education almost a decade ago [and] our teachers are also exposed to this and may need only refresher course,” he added.
With almost three million students enrolled in its 3,000-member schools, Kasilag also expressed confidence that these institutions can “observe the mandate of the new normal in social distancing” to curb spread of COVID-19.
If private schools are allowed to open in June, FAPSA said that private schools may still be able to keep their operations running despite suspension of classes in the last school year.
Kasilag warned further delay in school opening – whether August or September – will “kill smaller private schools” due to revenue losses and exodus of teachers, among others.
However, FAPSA’s pronouncement received a backlash from various stakeholders. Issuing a statement, Kasilag said that the “wisdom” behind the proposed June opening is misunderstood. “Personally, I am sorry if this offended some of our stakeholders who we are morally bound to serve,” he said. “The school opening whether in June or September is an option,” he added.
Kasilag said that his own school will implement “Online Tablet Education” where the students study and learn at their own pace. “We privatize literacy education on a DIY [do-it-yourself] mode,” he added.
Kasilag noted that the parents’ involvement will be very vital since the students “passes the course” with the parents. “Therefore, partnership between the teacher and the parents, and between the school and the home are the main substance – without it, it fails,” he ended.