A bill that seeks to allow the opening of classes beyond August has reached the Senate floor.
Senator Win Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, sponsored Senate Bill No. 1541, which amends Section 3 of Republic Act No. 7797 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days.” The proposed amendment will allow the President to set a different date for the start of the school year nationwide or in selected areas when a state of emergency is declared. The date of the postponed class opening will be based on the recommendation of the Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary.
Senate Bill No. 1541 retains the DepEd Secretary’s authority to end the school year while taking into consideration the Christmas and summer vacations, including the peculiar circumstances surrounding each region. The DepEd Secretary also retains the authority to hold Saturday classes for elementary and secondary levels for both public and private schools.
Senate Bill No. 1541 is the substitute bill consolidating proposals by Senators Joel Villanueva, Francis Tolentino, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.
Republic Act No. 7797 originally mandates the opening of classes between the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August. This law served as the basis for DepEd’s decision to move the class opening to August 24 amid the persisting threat of COVID-19. Last April, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended to move the opening of classes to September but has approved this month the August 24 school opening.
According to Gatchalian, the enactment of the proposed measure into law before the opening of classes will give DepEd more flexibility should the country’s public health situation and future calamities require further delays to class openings. He emphasized that what is at stake is the safety of the country’s more than 27 million learners, their parents, and approximately 900,000 teachers and personnel.
“Sa pamamagitan ng panukalang batas na ito, mabibigyan natin ang mga paaralan ng mas mahabang panahon upang siguruhin ang kaligtasan ng bawat mag-aaral, guro, at kawani ng mga paaralan. Bagama’t hangarin natin na maipagpatuloy ang edukasyon, ang kaligtasan at kalusugan pa rin ang ating pangunahing prayoridad sa gitna ng pandemyang ating kinakaharap,” said Gatchalian, who is also a co-author of the proposed measure.