MANILA — The Department of Education (DepEd) said Wednesday it would not compromise the safety of its teachers and students in its decision to start the school year on August 24, even if parts of the country would remain under strict lockdown by then.
Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali gave the assurance at a Senate hearing in response to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian's suggestion to delay the opening of classes in areas that would still be under modified enhanced community quarantine after August 18, the end of the stricter lockdown measure in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
"Hinding-hindi po natin [babalewalain] ang kaligtasan ng kahit sino man, maging ang ating mga guro, kawani ng ating kagawaran, lalong-lalo na po ng mga mag-aaral natin pati mga magulang sa ating desisyon na magpapatuloy ang August 24 school opening sa ating mga pampublikong paaralan," Umali said, citing a directive made by Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
(We will never neglect the safety of anyone- teachers, staff in our department, especially our students and parents- in our decision to push through with the August 24 school opening in our public schools.)
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, urged the DepEd to postpone the opening of classes in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal if MECQ would be extended beyond August 18.
He said teachers and parents may be exposed to the risk of getting COVID-19 in the process of delivering learning materials to students at home.
Government revived stricter lockdown measures in and around the capital from August 4 to 18 following a surge in COVID-19 cases, and as overwhelmed health care workers sought a timeout.
But Umali said there would be no distribution of learning materials in areas under MECQ.
He added that there is no urgent need to deliver the learning materials during the first 2 weeks of the school year as the period would be dedicated for orientation and psycho-social interventions.
DepEd also has alternative work arrangements, where teachers are not obligated to physically report to schools, said Umali.
Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan also said teachers in areas under MECQ are not forced to go out of their homes to distribute learning resources.
Malaluan said the department's learning continuity plan was designed to ensure continued education under various community quarantine classifications.
Schools are set to deliver lessons to students through modules, online classes, radio and television in the new school year as in-person classes remain prohibited due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.