MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) is expecting around 20.9 million students from pre-school to secondary level to return to school on Monday.
To assists parents and students on the first day of school, the DepEd has already set up help desks to accommodate queries and complaints.
DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonesito Umali said that apart from their central office, the agency's 17 provincial offices and 200 school divisions have also opened their lines to accommodate inquiries from students.
Here are the DepEd help desk hotlines:
The DepEd also reminded parents that public schools are not allowed to refuse to admit students.
However, Umali said some schools lacking space and classrooms may be allowed to do so.
"Some schools deny the request of registration of some students… Our policy on that is that we cannot deny [students]. The only reason our schools may refuse to admit a student or a transferee is if that school is very congested," said Umali, adding that in these cases, parents can call the DepEd Action Center so they can direct them to another school which may be able to accommodate them.
With more than 20 million students returning to school, Umali admitted that some schools in Metro Manila may have to accommodate more than the ideal class size.
The ideal class size for kindergarten is 1 classroom for 25 students, while the ideal class size at elementary and secondary level should be 1 classroom for 45 to 50 students.
To accommodate more students, he said some public schools also do double shifting.
However, in a press briefing last Friday, Umali explained that school congestion and overcrowding is not due to the lack of classrooms.
He said that "categorically" the DepEd has addressed the problem of classroom shortage in the country.
"Wala tayong classroom shortage. May mga paaralan na sobra-sobra ang espasyo. May paaralan naman na wala nang buildable space," Mateo explained.
"May mangilan-ngilan na because of late enrollment, because of lack of buildable space, hinaharap pa rin natin itong mga ganitong usapin o problema na ginagawan naman natin ng paraan," he said.
He added that the media should not focus only on schools in Batasan and Commonwealth in Quezon City, which he admitted are more crowded compared to other schools due to lack of buildable space.
He said that the DepEd Action Center is accepting all kinds of queries and even complaints of parents and students.
DepEd has also set up help desks in different provinces apart from their central office in Metro Manila.
All systems go for calamity-hit schools
Meanwhile in Tacloban, Umali said only a couple of schools are being used as evacuation centers by the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
However, he said that in other Yolanda-hit areas, around 2,200 new classrooms are still being built, while repairs on 17,000 classrooms are on-going.
To address this problem, Umali said that the DepEd has built "sufficient" makeshift classrooms and tents to serve as temporary learning spaces for students in Tacloban.
He said the same is the case in other disaster-hit areas like Bohol and Zamboanga.
Umali explained that all classrooms that will be built in these areas will calamity-resilient, as ordered by President Benigno Aquino III.
He said the DepEd is currently coordinating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to locate danger zones, especially in Bohol where some areas have sinkholes.