Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that the decision to postpone the opening of schools on August 24 was up to the Department of Education (DepEd) but added that the government cannot afford to let public schools get left behind as other schools have already started their classes.
Senators had earlier urged the DepEd to reconsider moving the opening of classes from August 24 to October as challenges of blended learning continue to hound the agency.
In an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday, Nograles said the opening of schools is something that the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases should talk about some more because some schools have already opened.
"I think we'll talk about it some more IATF meeting natin. Siyempre yung mga concerns namin (Our concern) is some private schools have already started classes like my kids," he said.
"Ang iniiwasan po natin na magiging behind ang ating mga public elementary and high school students natin (What we're trying to avoid is our public elementary and high school students being left behind)," he added.
According to the IATF co-chairperson, DepEd has to assess if it can really open up schools on August 24 as catching up to those schools that have already opened up would be a challenge.
"It might be more challenging from an educational point-of-view for them to catch up with private schools or schools that have already begun. So, it's really going to be something that DepEd has to assess and see if they are prepared," Nograles said.
"I've heard Secretary Liling say that they are already prepared to start classes," he added.
Nograles said for the IATF, it would be better to start classes sooner than later.
"For us IATF, the faster and sooner we begin classes also, the more chances for us to ensure that kids are in school," he said.
Once school starts, Nograles, chairman of the government’s Zero Hunger Task Force, said the feeding program for children will start and they will be provided with proper nutrition.
“Remember, the law provides kailang meron tayong school feeding program for the DepEd school children and DSWD day-care center children (Remember the law provides that we have school feeding program for the DepEd school children and kids in day care centers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development),” said Nograles, who stressed that this feeding program cannot be delayed.
Briones said in a Palace press briefing on Thursday that there was no stopping the August 24 opening of classes.
President Duterte has thumbed down the conduct of face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed. (With a report from Jeffrey Damicog)