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House gives final OK to bill allowing President to set class opening date during crisis

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved on third and final reading the measure that authorizes the President of the Philippines to set a different date for the start of the school year in times of a state of emergency or calamity.

Voting 241-0, the chamber approved House Bill 6895, which amends Section 3 of RA 7797, or the "Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from 200 Days to Not More Than 220 Class Days."

RA 7797 states that the school year in the country may open as early as the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.

But under the approved measure, the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, may set a different date for the opening of classes during a state of emergency or calamity.

"This bill seeks to allow the President some flexibility because of emergencies such as what we are experiencing right now to postpone or to delay the opening of the academic calendar," said House Committee on Basic Education and Culture chair Roman Romulo in sponsoring the measure on the floor.

The measure covers all basic education schools, including foreign or international schools in the Philippines.

The Senate on Monday also approved on third and final reading their version of the measure.

The House on Thursday approved the Senate's version of the bill as an amendment to House Bill 6895.

The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier announced that School Year 2020-2021 will start on August 24 using "blended forms" of learning to ensure the welfare of over 27 million basic education students and 1.2 million teaching and non-teaching personnel at public and private schools in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte initially said he would not allow the reopening of classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

He, however, later on said he would "scrape the bottom of the barrel" to fund the alternative forms of learning being proposed by the DepEd. — BM, GMA News