DepEd declares school opening on August 24; Senate President Sotto wants PRRD to set school calendar instead

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MANILA—Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Tuesday announced that the official opening of classes for school year 2020-21 would be on August 24.  This was disclosed by the secretary during a Laging Handa public briefing.

The secretary said “Ang napili nating school opening date ay August 24. “Pero hindi ibig sabihin lahat pisikal papasok kasi may lockdown tayo.”

The secretary did not elaborate on how the DepEd came up with the decision and what would be the “new normal” of going to school after the Covid-19 pandemic.  If the “physical presence” of students is not required, then would that mean DepEd is open to virtual classes or using the internet-cafes as “digital classrooms” being proposed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology?

Many local and foreign medical pundits predict it would take at least a year or two to find and manufacture in commercial quantity antibodies or vaccines to effectively eliminate the virus.  The Philippine government has participated in the global “solidary test” of certain medicines potential in suppressing the disease.  It even placed a substantial reward money for individuals or groups who could find a cure immediately.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III did not budge on his proposed legislative measure to authorize the president to set and adjust the opening of classes or the whole class calendar despite the said declaration of DepEd.

Sen. Sotto is the author of Senate Bill No. 1438, which in effect, amends Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7977 or the Act on Lengthening of School Calendar, which says that “school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”

The senator’s proposed amendment would give the DepEd ample time to prepare and adopt measures for the new normal in the education system considering the Covid-19 situation.  This bill was crafted upon the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease that due to the uncertainty of the damage that Covid-19 would cause, school opening might need to be moved to a later date.

Furthermore, Senator Joel Villanueva also filed a similar bill giving DepEd enough flexibility to adjust the schedule of class opening “in case of a declaration of state of emergency or state of calamity, or similar occurrence.”

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