Briones: Decision on face-to-face classes up to the President

Education Secretary Leonor Briones maintained that the opening of classes for School Year 2020-2021 is still on August 24 -- with or without the conduct of face-to-face instruction.

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

Briones, in an online press briefing on Oplan Balik Eskwela-Brigada Eskwela (OBE-BE) on July 8, explained the date of school opening cannot go beyond August. As cited in Republic Act (RA) 7797, opening of classes should be between the first Monday of June to the last day of August. “We cannot go beyond that because of the requirements of a law that is not yet amended or repealed as of now,” she explained.

As it stands, Briones said that there is “no change” in the schedule of school opening because it has been approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), announced by DepEd and President Duterte.

“As of now, whether we will have face-to-face or no face-to-face, the date remains that it is still August 24,” Briones said. “We don’t want to go beyond the requirements of the law so it’s August 24 - with or without face-to-face,” she added.

Should there be changes in the coming weeks, Briones said that the decision will not come from DepEd but from the President himself.

“Ang President kasi ang nag-declare na walang face-to-face, so siya ang mag-aaral ng sitwasyon at patuloy na binibigyan namin siya ng impormasyon na kailangan niya (The President was the one who declared that there will be no face-to-face, he looks into the situation as we continue to provide him with the information that he needs),” she explained. “Kung ano man ang desisyon, siya ang gagawa nung decision na iyan but the August 24 is still there - with or without face-to-face (Whatever decision to be made, he is the one who should make it but August 24 is still there - with or without face-to-face),” she added.

Compared to other neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, Briones mentioned that the Philippines “will be the last country to open schools in August.” For instance, she mentioned that Vietnam was the earliest to open schools in May, Singapore in June while others opened schools this month.

In May, President Duterte pronounced in a taped address that he will not allow face-to-face classes until a vaccine against COVID-19 is found. However, several stakeholders have been urging DepEd to reconsider the conduct of physical classes in areas with low cases of the disease.

Briones believes that the President is aware that there are suggestions to allow face-to-face classes in low risk areas. “The President, since he initiated that policy, will make the decision based on the conditions as of the time of opening of classes,” she added.

Is DepEd ready?

Briones noted that since it has announced the school opening date, the DepEd has always been asked on its readiness.

“So far, we are still getting ready,” Briones said “We’re doing everything but I think, you don’t reach a point that we can say that we are totally, completely ready because by the time that we’re able to respond to the needs, there will be emerging needs,” she ended.