Several senators believed that the opening of classes should be pushed back to after August following President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement that school openings needed to be postponed until a COVID-19 vaccine became available.
"I think August may be too soon to open schools and that it can be pushed back a few weeks or months. This, however, requires amending the law," Senator Sonny Angara said in a message to reporters.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also said that, as a mother, she had reservations on the opening of classes.
"Safety first para sa mga bata. Bilang mama, I can't imagine risking the life and health of our children. We have to postpone the opening of classes as we think of alternative infrastructures for home-based learning," Hontiveros said in her statement.
"Sa ngayon, sa tingin ko ay hindi pa handa ang DepEd dito. We should use this time to prepare and innovate on alternative modes of learning. Para sa mga anak natin, kailangan ang tripleng pag-ingat," she added.
On Monday night, Duterte said he would not allow the opening of classes until a vaccine against COVID-19 was made locally available.
The DepEd had previously announced that the school year would open on August 24.
Duterte's spokesperson clarified that what the President meant was that traditional face-to-face classes would not yet resume.
"Ibig sabihin po niyan, habang wala pang bakuna at habang wala pa tayo sa new normal, ‘yung wala na pong community quarantine, hindi pa rin po tayo magkakaroon ng face-to-face classroom na mga klase,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing.
“Kung hindi talaga dumating ang new normal at hindi mai-lift ang mga community quarantines hindi naman po ibig sabihin na hindi na mag-aaral ang ating mga kabataan," he added.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto agreed that alternative forms of instruction could be used in the meantime to ensure that learning would not be hampered by the pandemic.
"Let us see to it that even if schools are locked down, education is not placed in quarantine... I have high confidence in the ability of the teachers of this land to adapt to the new normal, more so if they are empowered with the right tools to make a learner-centered adjustment," he said.
He added that the country's IT infrastructure needed to be improved to "close the digital divide."
"The role of telcos—including the third one—to ramp up internet speed and penetration is crucial if lessons will be coursed via broadband," Recto said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the poor would likely be disadvantaged in the proposed virtual learning system under the new normal, pointing out that internet access remained a problem for many Filipinos. — DVM, GMA News