By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A teachers’ group on Saturday, May 30, reiterated its support to the proposed revision of the school calendar, noting that this would provide flexibility to the authorities to determine the date of opening of classes during the times of emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the House panel hears proposals on revision of the school calendar, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), a 30,000-strong group, expressed optimism that the existing school calendar would be revised especially as the county continues to grapple with COVID-19. While the school opening for the school year (SY) 2020-2021 is “almost certain” to formally start on August 24 as announced by the Department of Education (DepEd), TDC believes that the schedule remains “tentative,” pending the bills in both houses of Congress.
“While the President gives his go signal for a ‘blended’ schooling, this will only be finalized when the public is assured of the capacity of the system for remote learning and after the scientific assessment of COVID-19 situation in the country prior to August 24,” said TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas, citing parts of statements from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. “Things may also change when a bill or any resolution for the postponement of school opening gets the approval of Congress,” he added.
The TDC lauded the “swift action” of Congress on several proposals that would grant power to the President or the Secretary of Education to determine the date of opening of classes during the times of emergency. The said proposals will amend Republic Act (ACT) 7797 which strictly sets the date of school opening from June to August.
Readiness of learners, teachers for school opening
“We have seen how our parents, especially those in the poorest section of our society responded to the distance learning approach , whether online which will be needing internet connectivity or modular, which necessitates minimal academic skills for parents or guardians,” Basas said. “The reality is, we are not prepared or perhaps we need a little more time to prepare,” he added.
While many are still reluctant to report back to work, Basas said that teachers are always ready to do their duties. “Like what we have said in the past, as long as the safety of school personnel and learners is ensured, our teachers will gladly comply,” he said. Teachers, he added, are “patiently doing different tasks, virtual and physical” even during the Community Quarantine period.
Basas added that many “teachers are more than willing to take the online tasks expected of them” beginning Monday, June 1. DepEd earlier announced that all teachers will work from home from June 1-5 except those who are authorized by Regional Directors to form part of the skeleton workforce in schools.
While teachers are getting ready for school opening, TDC considers the announced schedule to be tentative. “The events prior to said date, like the local executives’ calls for further delay backed by some legislators’ proposal and the unpredictable pandemic situation, will be decisive,” Basas said. “But we hope that we are all safe and the system is ready by then,” he added.
As it pushes for the revision of the calendar, Basas said that TDC has found allies in both chambers and from the local government executives. Both the League of Municipalities headed by Mayor Chavit Singson of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur and the League of Provinces headed by Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco, Jr. raised their concerns on August 24 school opening. Earlier, Iloilo City mayor Jerry Trenas and his counterpart in Iloilo province Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr. also said they will not support the school opening on said date.
The House Committee on Basic Education chaired by Rep. Roman Romulo also calls for a public hearing today to tackle several bills revising the school calendar where Basas is expected to participate as one of resource persons.
“In the event that Congress approves this proposal, it would not necessarily stop the scheduled school opening on August, but rather it would give prerogative to the President or the Education Secretary to decide on the date of school opening for future emergencies or any fortuitous event that would make schooling impractical,” Basas said. “With or without this pandemic, the law would still be relevant,” he ended.
Citing studies from UP Resilience Institute, TDC noted that the safe school opening is after December 2020 and the obvious lack of infrastructure and capacity of the school system for distance learning agreed that school year 2020-2021 opening may be moved to January 2021.