MANILA — A lawmaker wants to postpone classes from pre-school to college across the country until a vaccine against the new coronavirus disease has been developed and made available.
Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr. has filed House Resolution No. 876, which calls on education agencies and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to "halt the physical opening of classes and prohibit face-to-face classes" in all private and public schools, including vocational education and training.
The agencies include the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The resolution also directs government to suspend the implementation of DepEd Order No. 7-2020, which sets the calendar of activities for the coming school year, including the formal opening on August 24.
In a statement, Gonzales said even while education agencies have recommended various alternatives to physical classes, "this would not be possible in the provinces where telecommunications signals are weak."
He argued that face-to-face classes would have to be conducted sooner because of unreliable internet connectivity and mobile phone communication.
"Here lies the problem, since it would be hard to require physical distancing in classrooms, especially in public schools, where a class is composed of no fewer than 40 students," said Gonzales, who represents the 3rd district of Pampanga.
"With the growing COVID-19 threat... it is imperative that we take all precautions and preventive actions to protect our people from the disease," he said.
The education department earlier said students and teachers would not be required to hold physical classes when the school year starts on August 24, especially in high-risk areas for COVID-19.
Those conducting face-to-face classes were required to limit the number of learners to only 20 to practice physical distancing.
The DepEd also gave schools the freedom to choose which alternative learning mode to implement, depending on the health situation in their localities and available resources. These include the use of online platforms and printed modules, among others.
The CHED, meanwhile, said colleges and universities would start their academic years depending on which learning delivery mode they would implement.
The commission has also encouraged higher education institutions to use flexible learning methods, where lessons are delivered through various means such as online classes, take-home exercises, and educational packets.
The National Parents' Teachers' Association-Philippines earlier called on the DepEd to suspend the coming school year until there is an available vaccine against COVID-19.