Senator Joel Villanueva has filed a measure authorizing the Secretary of Education to postpone the start of the school year in case of a declaration of a state of emergency, state of calamity or similar occurrence.

Villanueva said Senate Bill No. 1452 seeks to amend RA 7977 to allow the Secretary of Education, in case of a declaration of a state of emergency, state of calamity or similar occurrence, 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.

Under the bill, the DepEd shall 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.

“The bill would give more time and opportunity to prepare and adopt measures for the ‘new normal’ of the education system.”

The DepEd shall be required, in coordination with relevant agencies and sectors, to submit a report to Congress with regard its decision on the opening of school year within one month from making such decision.

“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,” the veteran legislator said.

The seasoned lawmaker cited UP Resilience Institute Executive Director Mahar Lagmay who said that 56 percent or majority of physical interactions among age groups happen among the 0-19 age group who most likely interact with the elderly, considered to be vulnerable to the coronavirus disease.

“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,” the seasoned lawmaker said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Tito Sotto also filed a bill seeking to move the opening of classes from August to September this year or any month as may be determined by the President of the Philippines.

Sotto said Senate Bill No. 1438 seeks to amend Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7977 or the Act on Lengthening of School Calendar, which specifically provides that the school year starts on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.

“We shall take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all.”

The veteran legislator said President Duterte had accepted a 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 based on a study which showed that children and youth from zero to 20 years of age are possible transmitters of the coronavirus.

“This bill, allowing the start of 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,” the seasoned lawmaker explained.

“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. Therefore, the recommendation of the IATF-EID to move the school year to September must necessarily be put into effect,” the senator stressed.

Under RA 7977, the Secretary of Education, Culture and Sports shall determine the end of the regular school year, taking into consideration the Christmas and summer vacations and the peculiar circumstances of each region.

It also authorizes the Secretary of Education, Culture and Sports to hold Saturday classes for elementary and secondary levels for public and private schools nationwide.

He said COVID-19 had kept students at home since March this year and a lot of school activities, both curricular and extracurricular, had been put on a hold.

Sotto said other schools 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. We shall take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all,” he stressed.

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