Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a bill that mandates the preparation of a Safe Schools Reopening Plan (SSRP) under the “New Normal” in education.

Under Senate Bill No. 1565 or the Education in the New Normal Act, the SSRP guides the reopening of all public and private basic education institutions in the event and aftermath of a calamity, public health emergency, civil unrest, and other emergency or crisis situations that disrupt classes.

The SSRP identifies basic interventions and requirements in times of health-related emergencies. These include cleaning and disinfection protocol in schools, the provision of public health supplies, preventive public health programs, teacher training on disease prevention and management, modified attendance policy for teachers and learners at risk, and monitoring and reporting protocols for affected learners, among others.

Under the proposed measure, mental health services, life skill classes, and psychosocial first aid will also be available to keep learners in school, especially those in conflict-torn areas. It also mandates accessible and responsive services for learners with disabilities and other marginalized learners.

To ensure the continuity of learning, Senate Bill No. 1565 mandates schools to enhance its information and communications technology (ICT) capacity and develop a hybrid learning system that utilizes alternative learning modalities such as homeschooling, online learning, radio and television-based instruction, and printed modules.

An education mapping system will help DepEd determine access of learners and teachers to available distance learning tools.

An education mapping system will help DepEd determine access of learners and teachers to available distance learning tools to determine the learning delivery modes to be adopted, the alignment of learning materials, and curriculum adjustments.

Senate Bill No. 1565 also seeks to establish the National Safe Schools Reopening Task Force (SSRTF), which will be responsible for the development and implementation of the SSRP. The SSRTF will be chaired by the Department of Education and co-chaired by the Department of Health. A regional SSRTF will also be formed for the effective implementation of the SSRP across the country’s regions.

The proposed measure also seeks to authorize Local School Boards in utilizing the Special Education Fund (SEF) for public health and medical supplies, including hand-washing facilities, soap, alcohol, sanitizers, and other disinfecting solutions. Under Section 272 of Republic Act No. 7160 or the “Local Government Code of 1991,” proceeds from the additional one percent tax on real property will be allocated to the SEF for the use of public schools.

“Under the new normal, we need to have concrete steps to continue the education of students.”

“Sa ilalim ng New Normal, nais nating magkaroon ng mga konkretong hakbang sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon habang pinapangalagaan ang kaligtasan ng ating mga mag-aaral, guro, at kawani ng mga paaralan sa panahon ng mga kalamidad, sakuna at pandemya,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

“Layunin natin na patatagin ang ating sistema ng edukasyon at siguruhin na sa panahon ng krisis, walang mag-aaral ang maiiwan,” the veteran legislator concluded.

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