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MANILA – Six months since the World Health Organization declared the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) a pandemic, learners and teachers returned to school virtually as the academic year 2020 to 2021 officially opened on Monday.

More than 61,000 schools offering K to 12 Basic Education Program reopened to serve about 24,753,906 learners — 22,525,282 enrollees in public school and 2,173,969 enrollees in private schools.

Apart from pushing through amidst a worldwide health crisis, the Department of Education considered the present school year “special” or “historic” as it is the first school year to open in the month of October under Republic Act 11480, allowing the President to move the opening of classes due to a national emergency.

In her opening speech, Education Secretary Leonor Briones stressed the importance of continuing on with the education process despite the challenges faced by the country.

“Education cannot wait, our learners cannot wait. We continue with the process, so, we can give hope and continuity, and contribute to the normalization of activities in the country,” Briones said in his speech during the opening program for the new school year.

To address the concerns of learners and their parents regarding the present school year, DepEd Undersecretary for Planning Jesus Mateo said the department’s Oplan Balik Eskwela and Public Assistance Command Center at its central office have been open for four months already since June.

“Nung unang buwan, Hunyo, ang pinakamataas ay yung issues ukol sa enrollment, pero habang lumalapit sa Agosto, tumataas naman ang concern nila sa learning continuity plan, paano ba ‘yung online modality, papaano ba ‘yung (During the first month, June, the highest number of issues is about enrollment, but as August approached, concerns on the learning continuity plan went up, how is the online modality, how is the) blended learning?” Mateo said.

He added that 90 percent of these concerns have been resolved before the official opening of classes since DepEd has setup regional information offices nationwide.

Meanwhile, DepEd Undersecretary for Field Operations Revsee Escobedo reported a total of 921,341,980 First Quarter Self-Learning Modules (SLMs) have been printed and 329,847,348 of them have been distributed as of Sunday.

“About 506,668 developed online materials and 3,716,813 online modules are ready for roll-out for the first quarter. These include digitized SLMs, e-books, online video lessons, and other materials available in the DepEd Commons,” Escobedo said.

He added that some 6,795 radio-based instructions and 8,082 television-based instructions to be used for the first quarter of the school year have also been created in partnership with 258 radio stations and 255 television channels.

For this year, the school calendar started on Oct. 5 and would end on June 11, 2021. (PNA)

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