Gatchalian, Tolentino move to postpone opening of classes to later date

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Tolentino and Sherwin Gatchalian share the sentiment as they urge the Department of Education (DepEd) to move the opening of classes from the scheduled August to October. This came after teachers' group and other stakeholders raised several concerns, including the lack of strict health measures to protect the educators and learners.

Gatchalian, Tolentino move to postpone opening of classes to later date
Senators are pushing to postpone the opening of classes to October.

During the Senate hearing on basic education, arts and culture, Tolentino reiterated the importance of protecting our learners from the continuing threat of COVID-19. He suggested that there are still other methods of learning that will not put learners at risk.

"Forcing schools to open this August will only defeat the purpose of education. Let us accept the fact that we are not fully ready, and it will not be wise, to simultaneously open School Year 2020-2021," Tolentino said.

Tolentino cited the passing of the new law, Republic Act No. 11480, which allows the education agency to move the opening classes beyond August during crisis or calamity.

"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, who chairs of the Senate basic education panel, also agreed with Tolentino. He said that teachers and learners in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) like Metro Manila are still at risk even if distance learning is implemented. He noted how printed learning modules still need to be delivered house-to-house which makes it a risk for COVID-19 transmission.

"My recommendation is kung ang areas ay ma-extend ang MECQ, we should just postpone school opening in those areas because hindi natin puwedeng palakarin ang mga guro natin at mga magulang sa isang kondisyon na lumalala," Gatchalian said.

"Kung ang MECQ ay ma-extend we trigger itong bagong batas, itong RA 11480 doon lang po sa lugar," he added.

Gatchalian urged DepEd Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs and External Partnerships Tonisito Umali to conduct a consultation with the concerned stakeholders, submit a timetable and publication of the implementing guidelines.

Early this week, Education secretary Leonor Briones called the opening of classes this month as their "hard limit."

"August 24 is the hard limit on what is legally allowed as opening of classes, so we will continue this no matter what happens with covid because we will not be conducting face-to-face sessions," Briones said in Filipino.

— Sally, The Summit Express

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