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‘We are not fully ready:’ Tolentino wants school year opening deferred until October

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Administration Senator Francis Tolentino has appealed to the leadership of the Department of Education (DepEd) to delay the scheduled opening of classes on August 23 to October or even a later date, amid safety concerns due to the rising cases of coronavirus infections in the country.

Tolentino made this call during the hearing of the Senate committee on basic education in light of public sentiments on the challenges of distance education and on-line learning which the department has yet to adequately address up to this time.

“It will be wise perhaps for DepEd to consider opening classes on a per regional health and connectivity situation basis. 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,” said Tolentino.

According to Tolentino, the newly-approved Republic Act No. 11480, enables DepEd and the executive department to reschedule or readjust the opening of the academic year especially during times of national emergency and calamity.

He further reminds the agency that they have only 168 hours to craft the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law in order to fully carry it out.

“I am asking DepEd to prudently adhere with the provisions of RA 11480,” he said.

Instead of proceeding with the scheduled opening of school year later this month, Tolentino has proposed instead to regionalize the opening of classes, with “high risk areas” to start school upon determination of more favorable public health situation.

“Different localities have varying health circumstances, and hence will need varying approaches in the delivery of education,” Tolentino stressed.

He said that those areas with “low health risk”—those that are ready with learning modules, and areas not hampered by quarantine restrictions—should be allowed to begin classes using whatever modality is best to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, areas with higher health risks should be allowed to start the school year at a later date, as even the parents’ livelihood are also affected, according to Tolentino.

The lawmaker noted that RA 11480, which was signed into law on July 17, allows the President, upon the recommendation of DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, to set a different date for the start of the school year in the country in the event of a rate of emergency or calamity.

Tolentino said DepEd’s readiness for school opening “remains in question” as the issue on connectivity and access to such other tools for learning have not been settled even with barely two weeks to the target date of opening.

“The prevailing health, livelihood, and internet connectivity situations should all be considered by DepEd,” he said.

The lawmaker expressed concern especially that “modules have yet to be completed,” not to mention the challenges of local government units (LGUs) passed on with the burden of reproducing these modules for learners within their jurisdiction.

“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,” he added.

Tolentino further stressed that delaying the opening of school opening favor both teachers and learners. (JCC)

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