Getting ready for the ‘big one’
Education officials in Marikina City have decided to abandon the Barangka National High School (BNHS) school building after the Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) found it to be standing on the West Valley Fault.
As public schools reopen on Monday, the BNHS’ 821 students will temporarily hold classes at Tañong High School (THS) and Jesus de la Peña National High School (JDPNHS). Tañong High School is 10 minutes away from BNHS while JDPNHS is about a kilometer away.
The Barangka National High School which opened in 2010 is located on A. Bonifacio Avenue corner Gen. Julian Cruz Street, in Barangay Barangka. Its lone school building—a four-story structure—was constructed in 2012 although classes began to be held in it only last year. Before that, the school made use of the extra classrooms of the nearby Barangka Elementary School (BES).
Department of Education (DepEd) Marikina district superintendent Elizabeth Quesada told the Inquirer Wednesday that 485 of the school’s students would be accommodated at THS while the rest would hold classes at JDPNHS. She said that faculty rooms and service offices at the two schools were already being converted into classrooms in preparation for the transfer.
The principal’s office in the two schools were also being downsized to accommodate the displaced students, Quesada added. She expressed confidence that they would have enough time to get things ready for the opening of classes next week.
While the DepEd’s Physical Facilities and Schools Engineering Division—in consultation with Phivolcs—has yet to say whether sections of the BNHS school building can still be used, Quesada has already directed the school principals of BNHS and BES to properly inform the students’ parents of the risk posed by the West Valley Fault. According to Phivolcs, the fault line could move any time and may generate a 7.2-magnitude quake in Metro Manila which could leave around 37,000 people dead.
“I [told] the principals to talk to the parents. Should they want to transfer their children, [the schools] can endorse the children to the nearest schools,” Quesada said.
For her part, BNHS principal Mita Abergos said they advised parents upon enrollment that “if they want to be certain of their child’s safety, they can transfer [them].”
On Tuesday, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said that school buildings traversed by the fault line or standing within the five-meter buffer zone should immediately be vacated.
“It can be used as a stockroom… The medium-term policy is to demolish those buildings,” Luistro added.
He also assured the public that classrooms in “at risk” buildings would not be used unless these have been certified safe by DepEd and Phivolcs.
As for BES which has 1,600 students, although Phivolcs validated on Tuesday that the fault line does not bisect the school, officials last year took the precaution of closing the school building closest to BNHS.
Meanwhile, parents of BNHS students will have a meeting with school officials today to inform them of the school’s situation, as well as the steps they have taken to ensure a smooth opening next week. For now, the BNHS building has been padlocked pending the transfer of most of its equipment to the host schools.