Fri, January 28, 2022

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Metro Manila schools on ‘health break’


Settling a contentious issue, local offices of the Department of Education (DepEd) have set academic health breaks due to the continuing increase in COVID-19 infections among school personnel and learners in many parts of the country.

But teacher groups assailed the unclear memorandum issued earlier by the DepEd central office, noting how regional and division offices had implemented class suspensions in varying durations.

In its memorandum issued on Friday, DepEd National Capital Region (NCR) suspended the conduct of classes in public schools for a week—from Jan. 15 to Jan. 22—“to ease the health burden caused by the surge of Covid-19 cases to the physical and mental well-being of the school personnel and learners.”

Classes in NCR are to resume on Jan. 24 to Jan. 29, but “on purely asynchronous distance learning modalities,” in which no online classes would be conducted but teachers would post online learning materials and activities that students need to accomplish.

DepEd Calabarzon is implementing a longer break in public schools in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon—from Jan. 17 to Jan. 29. The suspension will cover all school activities, whether physical or online, that involve school-based personnel, learners and parents.

Other school division offices also announced class suspensions: Bulacan, Jan. 14 to Jan. 22; Bataan, Jan. 17 to Jan. 28; Nueva Ecija, Jan. 17 to Jan. 28; and Gapan City, Jan. 17 to Jan. 28.

Reliable assessment

In a memorandum released on Thursday, Education Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction Diosdado San Antonio allowed DepEd regional offices and school division offices to suspend classes in January “based on their reliable assessment of the health status of their teachers and learners and the [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] risk classification.”

The suspension period is not to exceed two weeks in order to avoid a prolonged disruption in the current school calendar.

Private schools “may exercise their own discretion relative to the suspension of classes and K to 12 learning activities when COVID-19 risks in their respective areas are high,” DepEd said.

Local officials have also called for health breaks and suspended classes in all levels, both in private and public schools, in their jurisdictions.

These include the cities of Manila (Jan. 14 to Jan. 21) and Marikina (Jan. 17 to Jan. 29) in Metro Manila; Malolos City, Bulacan (Jan.14 to Jan. 28); and the municipalities of Sto. Domingo (Jan. 14 to Jan. 27) and Pio Duran (Jan. 17 to Jan. 28) in Albay province.

Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) criticized the DepEd central office for passing the buck of suspending classes to regional and division offices, resulting in the varying durations of breaks.

“This is the result of the lack of a unified directive from the central office. That’s why many of our fellow school personnel in different regions, divisions and cities would just say #SanaAll (Let it be for all),” said TDC national chair Benjo Basas.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines commended the local DepEd offices and local government units for their immediate action, but pointed out that the two-week health break could at most bring “temporary, albeit much-needed, relief.”

“Our ultimate goal is for our schools to finally be able to reopen safely so that we can effectively overturn the learning loss under distance learning,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said. “For this to happen, we need a relative level of control of the spread of the pandemic, which obviously the government is sorely failing in.”

ACT earlier called on DepEd to implement a two-week health break for all areas under alert level 3. But Education Secretary Leonor Briones had said DepEd would wait for the assessment of the Department of Health on Jan. 15.

Published : January 15, 2022

By : Philippine Daily Inquirer