2 senators file bills seeking to allow deferment of class opening until September
MANILA, Philippines — Two senators have filed separate bills that would allow the postponing of the opening of classes until September.
At present, the law provides that the school year should start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.
But Senate Bill 1438 filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III seeks to amend Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7977 of the Act on Lengthening of School Calendar so that the opening of classes can be deferred until September of this year or any month as may be determined by the President.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to move the opening of classes for School Year 2020-2021 to September as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sotto pointed out.
“This bill, allowing the start of the school year to be moved from August to September, or in such other month, as may be determined by the President, would give the Department of Education (DepEd) more time and opportunity to prepare and adopt measures for the ‘new normal’ of the education system while helping the government fight the COVID-19 outbreak,” Sotto said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Since what we have at the moment is a health emergency, there are no other views more important than the ones from the medical experts, particularly on the matter of preventing, fighting, and eventually, putting an end to this virus,” he added.
The recommendation of the IATF-EID to move the school year to September “must necessarily be put into effect,” he further said.
The Senate president said threats of the pandemic had kept students at home since March this year.
Many school activities, both curricular and extracurricular, have also been put on hold, he added.
Sotto further noted said other schools have already opted for online classes or the use of social media to interact with students so as not to hamper the academic year and to have a semblance of normalcy.
“No one knows when this pandemic ends and what the future holds for the country and its people. The National Government is doing its best to ‘flatten the curve’ and steps are being undertaken based on medical experts’ studies and assessments,” he said.
“We shall take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all,” he added.
Senator Joel Villanueva filed a similar bill that would authorize the education secretary to postpone the opening of classes.
Like Sotto’s measure, Villanueva’s Senate Bill No. 1452 also seeks to amend R.A. 7977 to allow the DepEd secretary “to move the opening of the school year to a later date per area or region, with due regard to the safety of students, faculty, and staff” in case of a declaration of a state of emergency, state of calamity or a similar occurrence.
“This bill will give the Secretary of Education the flexibility to open the school year 2020-2021 any time after August, especially considering that experts from the UP Resilience Institute have pointed out that the suspension of classes until December or the end of the year would be an effective way to limit further COVID-19 infections,” Villanueva said.
Under Villanueva’s bill, DepEd would also be tasked to ensure education continuity by utilizing alternative modalities of learning such as modular instruction, online, digital or mobile learning, radio or television-based instruction and blended leaning or a combination of various modalities.
DepEd would also be required, in coordination with relevant agencies and sectors, to submit to Congress a report regarding its decision on the opening of school year within one month from making such decision.
“For the sake not only of our children and youth but also of teaching and non-teaching personnel in our schools and the public in general, approval of this bill is earnestly sought,” Villanueva said.
Congress is still on its two-month break and will resume its regular session on May 4.