Opening of classes for School Year 2020-2021 is still the hottest issue of today considering the health and security impact of COVID19 in the country. However, RA 7977 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) days to not more than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days,” the “school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.’In this case, June 1, 2020 should be the opening of classes for this school year. But because of health concern amidst COVID 19 impact, adjustment could be possible for the safety of the learners and all education sector personnel.
The DepEd headed by Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones has to weigh things right in favor of health, safety and well-being of the learners and DepEd personnel. She needs to listen to the voice of the stakeholders both internal and external and seriously consider the recommendation of the president of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) upon the data and recommendation from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against COVID 19 impact. Lately, ongoing survey conducted for this purpose showed that any day in August would be acceptable to the respondents which included, learners, parents, teachers, DepEd personnel and other external stakeholders. We are expecting that any day in August will be declared as the first day of classes.
The questions are, what if COVID 19 cases curve would not flatten before the month of August? Would it be possible for DepEd to prolong the opening of classes beyond August? Secretary Briones has given her statement that like the marawi uprising “education must continue.” DepEd has already prepared a contingency plans, programs and preparation to protect learners and DepEd personnel even if COVID 19 is still posing danger to the public on the opening of classes.
What are these contingency plans and programs? What are the preparation being done? How feasible are these programs? These are some of the questions that needs to be answered before the declaration of the first day of classes for SY 2020-2021. First and foremost, we need to define the opening of classes within the purview of the so called “new normal “amidst COVID 19. According to Usec. Annalyn Sevilla, Opening of School does not necessarily mean requiring the learners and teachers to be physically present in the school campus. It needs extra-ordinary precautionary measures which may includes shortening of school hours, use of social media platforms, and filtering subject competencies.
Alternative Delivery Mode (ADM) of instruction would be of serious consideration. These will include modular classes where in learners may only be required to come to school in a pre-arranged schedule considering their numbers (class size) and classroom space to comply with the social distancing rules.
Classroom instruction may be also delivered using the available social media platforms like the DepEd commons, online classroom instruction via messenger and zoom application. Subject competencies were significantly reduced and clustered to respond to the need of the learners just enough to be covered even shortening of school hours is put into effect.
Going back to the question, what is the ongoing preparation done by DepEd? DepEd is now conducting training and workshop to the 1700 competent teachers for subject module writing. It is then expected that after this training workshop enough subject modules would be available for use. Some other competent academic writers are also working with electronic books for online classes. E-books would be available and downloadable from the DepEd LR portal. Furthermore, regional learning hubs are to be created to serve for this purpose. In response, telecommunication companies like Globe and Smart offered free services to teachers and learners under this program. In other words, using DepEd commons is absolutely free of charge to the teachers and learners. In essence, adopting this program does not need additional expense on the part of the teachers and learners instead seem economical for they do not need to travel to school every day. Likewise, skeletal work forces are also given additional load allowance to better connect and serve their clients in this “new normal” set up. If asking the readiness of the teachers to this new instructional trend? DepEd will be conducting online training and WEBINAR to all teachers and school heads making them atone to this new instructional model emerging from this “new normal” phenomenon.
As to preparedness, DepEd leaders do not claim that they are really prepared for this new challenge. But they promise to do their best and better serve the stakeholders and to the country as a whole. Their call is for us to be patient and resiliently responsive to this whole new thing amidst the crisis brought about by COVID 19.