Lawmakers from the House of Representatives proposed postponing the scheduled reopening of classes on August 24 given the lack of a vaccine for COVID-19 and the inability of some students to participate in online learning.
Deputy Speaker Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr. filed House Resolution 876 which seeks to postpone the reopening of classes in public and private schools until a vaccine against COVID-19 is developed and made available in the country.
In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Gonzales pointed out that social distancing may be difficult to implement in schools where as much as 40 to 80 students shared only one classroom.
It is also possible that teachers and school personnel are asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus, but this would be difficult to detect given that they were not included in the expanded mass testing for COVID-19.
"Hindi pa natin kalkulado yung pinsala na pwedeng idulot nitong COVID-19 sa ating mga anak kapag binuksan na natin yung face-to-face classes," Gonzales said.
While there are proposals for blended learning, Gonzales feared that some students who did not have the required devices or were living in areas where there was no electricity or network connectivity would still be left behind.
"Sa aking palagay, we really have to focus on the needs of our students. Yung iba walang sariling gadgets let alone access sa Internet. Importante na isipin din natin yung mga lugar na walang kuryente, walang signal. Paano naman yung ibang estudyante na mahihirap sila?" he said.
"Kung ii-implement pa rin ng DepEd ang opening of classes on August 24 with the suggested hybrid curriculum, natatakot ako, I feel that there will be plenty of students who will be left behind," he added.
Gonzales clarified that he was not against the continuation of classes, but only to the conduct of physical learning and school activities.
Ang Probinsyano party-list Representative Ronnie Ong echoed Gonzales' misgivings, saying that resorting to virtual classes would only be prejudicial to students who did not have e-learning gadgets and could not afford to have an Internet connection.
He pointed out that conducting virtual classes would also unnecessarily add to parents' financial and emotional burdens.
"[The Department of Education (DepEd)] should just postpone the entire school year without any exception. Our policy should apply to all to avoid any confusion. We are unprepared for this crisis,” Ong said.
“Walang training ang marami sa ating mga teachers to hold online classes. My suggestion is the DepEd should use this time to properly re-tool their teachers and their system to adapt to the so-called new normal,” he added.
In response, DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio said that the department had numerous consultations on the plan to reopen classes on August 24, and this was even approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He reiterated that once classes reopen on August 24, students and teachers will not be required to come to school.
He also clarified that while an online mode of learning may be implemented, distance learning is also possible using traditional printed self-learning modules supplemented by TV and radio broadcasts.
"Inuulit namin, hindi naman kailangang magpunta sa paaralan yung mga teachers at ang mga mag-aaral para masabi na magsisimula na ang pasukan. Sa katunayan, marami-rami na rin ang nagho-homeschool," San Antonio said in a separate Dobol B sa News TV interview.
"Lalo itong paiigtingin din at maglalabas din ng polisiya ang DepEd very soon para ang lahat ng mga may gusto na patuloy na mag-aral ang mga anak nila ay mabigyan ng serbisyo ng DepEd," he added.
San Antonio also said that parents may also opt not to let their children continue their schooling for this year if they still have concerns about their safety.
"Yung talagang hindi palagay ang loob, hindi naman siguro pipilitin ng DepEd na papuntahin o pag-aralin ang anak nila kung ayaw talaga nila. Pero ang pakiramdam namin, kailangan na ang pagkakatuto ay tuluy-tuloy kahit na may emergency," he added.
The DepEd will take a survey from June 1 to 30, and from this the department will have a clearer picture of how many students are actually able to participate in an online mode of learning, San Antonio said. — DVM, GMA News