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DepEd to school heads: Shift to distance learning during extreme heat, power outages

Schools may suspend face-to-face classes and shift to modular distance learning due to extreme heat and power outages experienced in several parts of the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) reminded school heads on Sunday.

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa showed a copy of a memo issued to public and private school heads dated April 20, reminding them of their authority and responsibility to suspend in-person classes and switch to alternative delivery modes (ADM) “in cases of unfavorable weather and environment such as, but not limited to, extremely high temperatures which may considerably affect the conduct of classroom learning and put the learners’ health and wellbeing at risk.”

“Iba-iba po kasi ang situation ng ating mga paaralan. Kaya school heads po ang magde-determine. Ayaw rin po nating makaapekto sa kalusugan ng ating mga learners ang napakainit na panahon, kaya po pinaalalahan natin ang mga school heads na maaari silang mag-switch agad sa ADMs,” Poa told reporters on Saturday.

(Schools have different situations. Thus, school heads should determine what  learning mode is best for them. We are concerned about the effect of hot weather on learners' health.  So we remind the school heads that they can immediately switch to ADMs.)

On Thursday, the heat index was at 43°C in Dagupan in Pangasinan and at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

Weather bureau PAGASA has warned of even warmer days ahead, with the heat index expected to hit 56°C in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, and 50°C in Cabanatuan.

A survey of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) showed that a huge majority of teachers in the country reported that students are finding it difficult to concentrate on their studies due to "dry season heat.”

Meanwhile, Occidental Mindoro has been placed under a state of calamity due to the 20-hour daily power outage for the last month and a half, according to Governor Eduardo Gadiano on Friday.

Based on DepEd Order (DO) 37, there will be no automatic class suspension if there are power outages or interruptions in schools. However, school officials also have the discretion to cancel classes if such power outages result in a “poor learning environment.”

Push to revert to old school break

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview on Sunday, Senate Committee on Basic Education chairman Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian pointed out that climate change is among the reasons why the school break should be reverted to April and May.

The lawmaker earlier said that it’s about time to return to the pre-pandemic school calendar, considering the number of students who have suffered from heat exhaustion lately.

“Una, ang bata ay nakakapaglaro. Pwede silang magkaroon ng bonding time sa kanilang mga magulang at pamilya. Pangalawa, dahil tag-init 'yun, maiiwan na lamang sila sa bahay o meron silang flexibility na manatili sa bahay o pumunta man sa ibang lugar na hindi makakaapekto sa kanilang kalusugan,” Gatchalian said, explaining the benefits of summer school break.

(First, the children can play and have bonding time with their parents and family. Second, because it's summer, they can just be left at home or they have the flexibility to stay at home or go to places without affecting their health.)

He also reminded school heads to be alert during this warm and dry season, and make the right decision when it comes to the health of the students and personnel.

In Occidental Mindoro alone, at least 145 students have been hospitalized since March due to extreme heat.

On the other hand, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) also suggested the adoption of 185 class days annually so that the school break would gradually revert to April and May after five years. —LBG, GMA Integrated News