New law on opening of classes signed by President

Senators on Monday welcomed President Duterte’s signing of the measure allowing the Executive Department to adjust the opening of classes, saying this will give schools the much-needed flexibility to move the start of the school year upon the declaration of a state of calamity or emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“The flexibility to move the opening of classes beyond August is crucial considering the uncertainties and threats posed by this pandemic,” Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said in a statement.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, thanked the President for the timely signing of the measure that would allow a safe reopening of classes as it is necessary to still pursue education even in the midst of a pandemic.

“Last April, nearly a third or 26 out of 81 provinces were free from COVID-19. By July 15, only four have remained COVID-19-free,” the senator noted.

“Even if face-to-face classes are deferred but COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the distribution of self-learning modules could still compromise the safety of our learners, teachers, parents, guardians, and other school personnel,”  he said.

“With this new law, however, the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), is empowered to move the start of the school year, upon the declaration of a state of calamity,” the lawmaker stressed.

Sen. Francis Tolentino also lauded the President’s move as he sees the necessity of adjusting the school opening from Aug. 24 to a later date as the DepEd fell short in the preparation.

“There is really still no certainty as to when the country will be able to effectively control this contagion and this will certainly put students at risk of contracting the disease,” Tolentino said in a separate statement.

He also echoed Gatchalian’s belief it would be more prudent to defer the start of classes in order to give the government and schools more time to effectively implement safety measures to secure the health of the students and to craft online learning programs and other non-face to face learning systems.