Bill to allow class opening after August, President to defer it up for Senate OK | Inquirer News

Bill to allow class opening after August, President to defer it up for Senate OK

/ 06:48 PM May 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday endorsed for plenary approval a measure seeking to allow the opening of classes beyond August.

Gatchalian, chair of the basic committee in the Senate, sponsored Senate Bill No. 1541, which seeks to amend Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days.”

The proposed amendment likewise seeks to “empower” the President to set a different date for the start of the school year nationwide or in selected areas when a state of emergency is declared.


However, the date of the postponed class opening will be based on the recommendation of the Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary.


Senate Bill No. 1541 is the substitute bill consolidating proposals by Senators Joel Villanueva, Francis Tolentino, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put the entire country under the most unusual of circumstances. The proposed opening of the 2020-2021 school year on August 24 has been opposed by those who fear that the physical opening of our schools may cause a spike in COVID- 19 cases among school-aged children,” Gatchalian said in his sponsorship speech.

“Marami pong mga magulang ang nangangamba na baka ‘pag pinayagan nilang pumasok sa eskwelahan ang kanilang mga anak ay hindi malayong mahawa sila ng peligrosong sakit na ito. Kaya marami sa kanila ang nagsasabing mas maigi pang kahit ipagpaliban muna ng isang taon ang pag-aaral ng kanilang mga anak, kaysa isakripisyo ang kanilang kalusugan at kaligtasan,” he added.

(A lot of parents are worried that if they allow their children to school, there is a chance that they may contract this dangerous disease. That’s why a lot of them are saying that it’s better to postpone classes for one year, instead of sacrificing children’s health and safety).

At present, R.A. 7797 mandates the opening of classes between the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.

“As it stands now, Republic Act No. 7797 calls on the Secretary of Education to start classes by August 31, 2020, even if the Department of Health or the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) would recommend delaying the start of classes to protect the health and welfare of our children,” the senator went on.


Gatchalian noted that the education sector is the “fourth among the most impacted sectors in the country” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In fact, further moving the school opening beyond August is a decision with even more complicated implications in the education sector, not only on the health and safety of the learners and their parents but also on the livelihood of private school teachers and the survival of the private education sector,” he said.

“It is in contemplation of this and similar situations that this bill proposes it be the President himself, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, who shall make this critical decision,” he added.

The senator said the immediate enactment of the proposed measure into law before the scheduled opening of classes will give DepEd “more flexibility should the country’s public health situation and future calamities require further delays to class openings.”

DepEd earlier announced that the school year 2020 to 2021 will open, physically or through online, on August 24.

He also emphasized that the safety of the country’s more than 27 million learners, their parents, and approximately 900,000 teachers and personnel is what’s “at stake.”

“This way, the government will have free rein to make a science-based decision on the school opening issue,” he said.

“In later years, this law would give the President and the Department of Education sufficient flexibility in adjusting the start of the school year when other emergencies or calamities would so require,” Gatchalian added.

For his part, Villanueva said the bill would “pacify stakeholders and reassure parents who remain wary of sending their kids back to school while the pandemic is still in place.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic lends urgency into this piece of legislation…This measure will consolidate the efforts of education stakeholders in mitigating damages and surmounting challenges in this crisis,” he said in a speech.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri also backed the measure as he underscored the need to have a “proactive stance now more than ever because this concerns a very important and vulnerable demographic of our population.”

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“With thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases now in the country and more to expect given increased testing, there is a need to give our government the flexibility to postpone the opening of classes at a later date for our children’s safety and welfare,” he said.

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TAGS: August, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, DepEd, Nation, nCoV update, News

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