The Department of Education (DepEd) should consider pushing back the start of classes to November, according to League of Provinces of the Philippines President and Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr.
"We're not sure if the use of the TV or the radio will really work so we requested Secretary Briones to have a dry run first," Velasco said in a Friday Senate hearing.
"We are proposing that the opening of the schools be scheduled sometime in October or November, probably by that time we'll have a clearer picture of the situation with respect to the COVID-19," he added.
Velasco stressed that learners and parents, especially those in third, fourth, and fifth class municipalities may not be able to afford to buy gadgets and internet connection for remote learning.
He said if classes are postponed until November, the students may just take makeup classes.
"We believe that there can be remedial classes on Saturdays and a portion of the vacation period next year can be utilized to cover the days that can be missed in this particular year," he said.
Quirino Governor Dakila Carlo Cua, president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, also asked the DepEd to exercise more flexibility on its timetable, especially in areas that were most affected by COVID-19.
"Although we see the value that DepEd is pushing for August 24, maybe it should not be so strict. Maybe Deped needs more flexibility," Cua said.
"Tulad po ng Cebu [City] nag-ECQ ulit sila. So kapag nag-ECQ pa ba sila at humaba pa 'yung ECQ nila ipipilit ba natin 'yung August 24 sa kanila? So sana po bigyan ng flexbility ang DepEd para po maka-adjust sila to different situations according to the context under the different LGUs," he added.
Not limited to online classes
The DepEd, on the other hand, clarified that distance learning would not be limited to online classes.
Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said printed modules would also be delivered to houses and picked up for checking on a regular basis.
He added that "struggling learners" and those whose parents are having difficulty in facilitating home-based learning will be assisted accordingly.
"Mayroon po tayong mga paraan para ang ating mga guro o mga community learning facilitators or partnership with some private organizations para magkaroon ng some form of intervntion sa mga bata na nahihirapan," Umali said.
The DepEd official said Education Secretary Leonor Briones stood firm on August 24 as the target date for the start of the school year.
Congress, nonetheless, passed a bill authorizing President Rodrigo Duterte to reschedule the start of classes, upon the recommendation of the DepEd chief, at any date during a state of emergency or state of calamity. — DVM, GMA News