Duterte signs into law school opening reset

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte signs into law school opening reset
Private school students take part in a simulation of online classes at their house in Quezon City yesterday.
Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has signed into law a measure that will allow the chief executive to adjust the start of the school year during a state of emergency or state of calamity.

Republic Act No. 11480, signed by the President on July 17, amends RA 7797, which sets the opening of classes between the first Monday of June and the last day of August. But the government, so far, is sticking to its original plan of opening classes on Aug. 24.

“The school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August. Provided, that in the event of a declaration of a state of emergency or state of calamity, the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, may set a different date for the
 start of the school year in the country or parts thereof,” the law states.

The secretary of the Department of Education will choose the end of the regular school year “taking into considerations the Christmas and summer vacations, and the peculiar circumstances in each region.”

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has upset regular classes schedule.

“In the exercise of this authority, the Secretary of Education may authorize the holding of Saturday classes for elementary and secondary levels for public and private schools,” the law read.

DepEd said the enactment of RA 11480 was a welcome development. “We thank the President for signing Republic Act 11480 amending RA 7797 mandating the Secretary of Education to recommend to the chief executive adjustments in the school calendar in ‘times on national emergency,’” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in a statement yesterday.

“We are also grateful to our senators and members of the House of Representatives for the quick and timely passage of the law,” Briones added.

“The department has been consulted and has conferred with the President and the legislators throughout the process and we will issue corresponding implementing rules and regulations soonest as required by the law,” she maintained.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), a federation of public school teachers’ associations, also welcomed the new law.

“The need for this law is urgent. Barely a month to go before the scheduled opening of classes on August 24, we are all witness to unabated rise of COVID-19 cases which even surpassed the estimates of UP experts,” Benjo Basas, TDC national chairperson, said in a statement.

“While the DepEd will use new modalities, it is still undeniable that movement of people involved in education service will still be necessary, and we are talking about a million DepEd personnel that would cater to some 22 million children, albeit online, modular or any sort of distance modality,” Basas said.

“We hope that the President will exercise the power provided by this law should he find it necessary. If not, then the law will still be relevant.” Basas urged.

The TDC, he said, was continuously raising concerns on the preparedness of DepEd to facilitate distance learning, citing the lack of necessary materials like internet connectivity, radio and TV broadcast facilities and even printed modules for the so-called distance learning modality.

“On top of this, the continuous rise in the number of COVID-19 cases should also be the main concern of the government when it finally decides to push through with the opening of new school year next month,” Basas added.

“We welcome this legislation and we hope that the President will use his prerogative to move the opening of classes this year, if he finds it necessary. In this period of uncertainty, the utmost care for health and safety of the people should be the greatest priority, and moving the school calendar beyond August would surely help our fight against the pandemic,” Basas pointed out.

One of the authors of the measure, Sen. Francis Tolentino, also thanked the President “for enacting into law this crucial piece of legislation, which would allow the opening of classes beyond August, most especially with the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.” Other authors of the measure are Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva.

“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.

“From the looks of it, there is certainly a need to adjust the school opening from August 24 to a later date as the Department of Education fell short in the preparation,” he added.

The Philippine National police (PNP) said it was ready to provide assistance to DepEd at the opening of classes on Aug. 24.

“We will undertake the necessary activities and operations including implementation of security plan, attending coordination meetings with DepEd offices, LGUs, PTA, volunteer groups, and stakeholders to carry out public safety services, conduct assessment on the security and safety operations for DepEd personnel who will deliver printed and digital modules to hard-to-reach areas,” PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said at a virtual press briefing.

Meanwhile, several schools have come aboard the Edvision program of Lenovo and Microsoft, designed to help learning institutions accelerate their digital transformation.

Michael Ngan, Lenovo Philippines president and general manager, said the Philippines was the first country in the Asia Pacific region chosen for the rollout of the Edvision program.

“Basically, we launched this program to help address and assist the education sector in its transition from physical classrooms to flexible learning,” Ngan told The STAR in an online interview.

“The project’s main thrust is how do we bridge the digital gap of faculties, educators and the students as they adopt flexible learning in this time of crisis,” Ngan said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rainier Allan Ronda, Neil Jayson Servallos



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