One year after, schools remain closed but education continues

Published March 10, 2021, 4:02 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Exactly a year ago, on March 10, 2020, schools were closed and students from all levels stopped attending face-to-face classes due to the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Friday, March 13, marked the last day of school for students in Iloilo City after the local government is suspending classes on March 16-31, 2020. (Tara Yap/Manila Bulletin File photo)
Friday, March 13, 2020 marked the last day of school for students in Iloilo City after the local government is suspending classes on March 16-31, 2020. (Tara Yap/Manila Bulletin File photo)

A year after, on Wednesday, March 10, schools are still physically closed for millions kinder, elementary, secondary and college students but the government – through the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) – were able to find ways for learning continuity amid the health situation in the country.

As the Philippines marks the first year of school closures for both public and private systems, here’s a timeline of how COVID-19 caused unprecedented disruption in the country’s education sector.

February 2020

DepEd issued policy directives recognizing that the COVID-19 was a matter of “serious and urgent concern.”

National and off-campus activities involving learners and teachers were suspended but were later on allowed provided that all “precautionary measures” identified by DepEd and Department of Health (DOH) were “strictly followed.”

Local DepEd officials such as regional directors, school division superintendents (SDSs), and school heads were authorized “to suspend classes” based on several conditions, if the need arises.

March 2020

President Duterte, on March 9, declared the suspension of classes at all levels – both in public and private schools – in the National Capital Region (NCR) from March 10 to 14. On March 12, he extended the suspension of classes in Metro Manila until April 12 as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

Soon after, localized suspension of classes were also declared by local executives in nearby provinces and other areas nationwide.

DepEd directed its officials in the field, at the regions, divisions, and schools to communicate with students and their parents to ensure they meet the required competencies for the school year.

Final examinations at the basic education level were no longer administered after DepEd provided a grading formula for the computation of final grades for SY 2019-2020.

“DepEd Commons,” an online learning platform, was launched and was made accessible to learners, parents, and teachers.

On March 17, CHED issued guidelines for the prevention, control and mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

April to May 2020

Summer vacation for K to 12 students.

In April, DepEd conducted an online survey for SY 2020-2021 school opening.

In May, DepEd released the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP).

On May 5, DepEd Education Secretary Leonor Briones officially announced that the formal start of classes for SY 2020-2021 was set on Aug. 24 for public schools nationwide. As mandated by the President, conduct of face-to-face classes was prohibited and the distance learning set-up will be in place.

June 2020

DepEd set a month-long enrollment period for SY 2020-2021 from June 1 to 30.

For the first time, DepEd implemented remote enrollment through alternative means of communication that do not require physically reporting to school, such as text, call, email, and online messaging and placing drop boxes and kiosks in barangay halls and schools where parents may pick up or drop off the forms needed.

July 2020

DepEd extended the enrollment period for SY 2020-2021 until July 15.

Groups such as the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Coalition for People’s Right to Health, Amihan, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), and Salinlahi urged the government to reconsider the Aug. 24 opening.

August 2020

Ten days before the Aug. 24 opening of classes in public schools, DepEd announced that the start of classes has been moved to Oct. 5 as directed by President Duterte.

Private schools, which already started online classes, were allowed to continue. Others announced temporary closure for this school year.

September 2020

Due to the continuing COVID-19 crisis, calls for “academic freeze” or suspension of classes coming from various groups intensified. It was rejected by DepEd saying it was “short-sighted.” Private school groups also thumbed it down, noting that effects are “serious and compounding.”

October 2020

First day of classes in public schools. Briones said that it was a “victorious” school opening with over 24.7 million students who enrolled in both public and private schools despite the COVID-19 situation in the country.

December 2020

Recognizing that face-to-face classes “remain a necessity for education,” DepEd recommended to Duterte, on Dec. 14, to allow the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face learning in areas with low or no COVID-19 cases from Jan. 4 to 15, 2021. It was approved by the President.

However, the President recalled his decision on Dec. 26 in light of the emerging concern over the reported new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19.

January 2021

Classes resumed on Jan. 4 after the Christmas vacation.

As of Jan. 15, DepEd said that there were 26.6 million enrollees in both public and private schools.

February 2021

DepEd postponed the administration of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) test scheduled from January to April this year until further notice due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

DepEd made a fresh bid on the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face but was rejected by the President once again citing safety and health concerns among students and teachers.

CHED and the Department of Health (DOH) issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2021-001 or the guidelines for the gradual resumption of limited face-to-face classes at the tertiary level. The joint memorandum circular outlined the process for HEIs that intend to hold limited face-to-face classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 2021

DepEd on March 2 officially announced the extension of SY 2020-2021 until July 10 this year. The adjustments aim to allow schools to implement “intensive intervention and remediation activities” for learners, among others.

On March 5, CHED Chairman J. Prospero De Vera III confirmed that six Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) offering medical and health allied programs have been allowed to hold limited face-to-face classes. amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country.

On March 9, DepEd confirmed that the Early Registration – usually done last week of January every year – has been deferred to March 26 to April 30. Remote enrollment system will also be in place.