The Department of Education on Wednesday urged regional and schools division offices to exercise discretion in suspending classes and other teaching-related activities this January amid the surge of COVID-19 cases.
In a memorandum signed on Wednesday, the DepEd cited the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases and the well-being of teachers and students.
“The regional and schools division offices are given the option, based on their reliable assessment of the health status of their teachers and learners and the IATF risk classification, to declare suspension of classes within the month of January 2022,” the memorandum read.
All synchronous and asynchronous classes will be stopped. Also, the submission of academic requirements and conduct of other teaching- related activities must be rescheduled.
The DepEd said considerations must be given for late submission of requirements due to valid reasons.
According to DepEd, concerned offices will decide on the specific dates and number of days for the suspension of classes as long as the period of class suspension does not exceed two weeks.
These offices will make adjustments in the school calendar to ensure that the number of school days in the current school year remains in accordance with the Republic Act 11480.
Aside from this, the DepEd instructed schools to keep implementing the Suggested Measures to Foster Academic Ease During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Meanwhile, DepEd added that private schools, in consultation with parents’ associations, may also impose suspension of classes and K to 12 learning activities due to high COVID-19 risk.
At least two senators have supported calls for the two-week “health break” for teachers and students.
Senate basic education committee chairperson Sherwin Gatchalian said the temporary suspension of classes would give teachers and students ample time to address their health concerns, including the needs of their families.
“Since the Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire in the country, I support the imposition of a health break for our teachers and students especially for those who are in areas that have been placed under Alert Level 3. Since the pandemic started, our education frontliners have already been under a lot of strain,” he said in a statement.
However, he also pointed out that more than the “health break,” the government must also aggressively pursue measures that will uphold the safety and welfare of both the teachers and the learners.
He reiterated the need for regular COVID-19 testing for the teachers as well as the non-teaching personnel.
“When they test positive, they should be able to count on the government for support when it comes to their treatment. Lastly, we should intensify our efforts to vaccinate teachers and eligible learners to protect them from the risks of infection, severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” he added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros likewise backed the two-week suspension of classes.
“Teachers are humans, too. They are also exposed to the same health risks and are experiencing the same difficulties like everybody else. Maaaring hindi lang sila ang may sakit kundi ang kanilang pamilya (It is possible that their familiy members are also sick). A two-week break is the amount of time for full quarantine and to let them rest, recover or attend to their family's needs,” she said.
Hontiveros also asked the Commission on Higher Education to reconsider the opening of limited face-to-face classes which is set January 31.
“The health and safety of both students and teachers should be the priority. We also cannot allow sick teachers teaching our children who are also vulnerable to COVID,” she said. — RSJ, GMA News