Senators urge DepEd to postpone school opening from August 24 to later date

Published August 12, 2020, 2:49 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senators on Wednesday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to postpone the scheduled opening of classes this August to October as challenges of distance education and online learning continue to hound the agency.


“Our common and ultimate goal is the protection of our learners. There is no disagreement on that. However, different localities have varying heath circumstances, and hence will need varying approaches in the delivery of education,” Sen. Francis Tolentino said during the Senate basic education, arts and culture hearing.

Tolentino reminded DepEd they could defer the scheduled August 24 school opening to a later date, citing that the new law, Republic Act No. 11480, enables them to do so.

The senator said they now only have 168 hours to craft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law in order to fully carry it out.

At best, he said the DepEd should consider regionalizing the opening of classes, with high-risk areas to start school upon determination of more favorable public health situation.

“It will be wise perhaps for DepEd to consider opening classes on a per regional health and connectivity situation basis,” Tolentino said.

“Not only will students’ health and safety be safeguarded, but as well as the welfare of teachers who will be forced to deliver the modules to students’ homes or at the very least report to school for the distribution of modules to parents. I am asking DepEd to prudently adhere with the provisions of RA 11480,” he stressed.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education panel, agreed with Tolentino saying both the Senate and House rushed to pass the measure giving the President authority to adjust the school calendar during a state of emergency or calamity to give DepEd the flexibility it needs during uncertain times.

“Minadali itong batas na ito precisely to give DepEd the flexibility dahil nga very uncertain yung mga nangyayari ngayon. Binigyan kayo ng flexibility to postpone class opening, ito ay ni rush ng Kongreso at Senado (Congress expedited the passage of this law precisely to give DepEd the flexibility because what is happening right now is very uncertain),” Gatchalian also said during the hearing.

Gatchalian then urged DepEd Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs and External Partnerships Tonisito Umali to submit to the Senate a timetable on when they plan to conduct the consultation with the stakeholders, as well as the publication of the implementing guidelines.

“And again, we just want to remind DepEd na sumunod ho sa nakasulat sa batas para ma implement ho yung kaagad (to follow what is written on the law so it can be implemented immediately),” Gatchalian said.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomucceno Malaluan, however, said the DepEd considered opening the school classes on August 24 in “anticipation of a better situation” after the lock downs in March, April and May.

Malaluan also said the agency is prepared to adopt distance learning mechanisms to limit or prevent face-to-face teaching in schools.

But Gatchalian said the fact that the President agreed to reimpose the National Capital Region (NCR) and other “hotspots” to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) shows that the COVID-19 situation in the country is worsening.

“We have no way of predicting, if after Aug. 19, the situation will improve or not improve. And there is also a big chance that the MECQ could be extended. Because, I know for a fact some doctors are requesting that the MECQ be extended,” he said.

“And that is the reason why this law was enacted, so that when the situation worsens, we have a law that will give DepEd this kind of flexibility to adjust the opening of classes,” Gatchalian said.

On the other hand, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said regardless of when the DepEd plans to reopen the classes, it is imperative that the government would be able to provide alternative modes of learning especially online and offline learning modalities.

“As President Duterte have said there should be no face-to-face classes until there is a vaccine on COVID-19 is available. Because of this, it’s important that we are able to give alternative modes of learning,” Go said.

“Our children’s safety and well-being are of utmost importance and it is our responsibility to ensure these, not only in this time of COVID-19, but also as we usher in the ‘new normal’ that comes with it,” he stressed.