The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill that gives the President the authority to postpone the opening of classes beyond August.
Senator Win Gatchalian, co-author and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1541, thanked his colleagues for recognizing the urgency of the proposed measure and giving their approval before the sine die adjournment.
Should the proposed measure becomes a law before the opening of classes, Gatchalian reiterated that the President and the Department of Education (DepEd) would have more flexibility to start the school year if COVID-19 cases would continue to surge and threaten the safety of learners, teachers, and non-teaching personnel.
By amending Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) 7797 or “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days,” Senate Bill No. 1541 authorizes the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, to move the start of the school year during a state of emergency or calamity. SBN 1541 covers all basic education institutions, including foreign or international schools.
RA 7797 originally mandates the start of the school year from the first Monday of June to the last day of August.
“The immediate effect of this legislation would be to empower the President to move the start of the School Year 2020-2021 to September or even later in the event that public health authorities would recommend the postponement of the school year in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
“Natutuwa po ako at nakapasa na sa senado ang panukalang batas na ito. Mahalaga ang pagpasok sa eskuwelahan ng mga bata, pero higit na mahalaga ang kanilang kaligtasan at kalusugan. Kaya bigyan po natin ng pagpapasya ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas at ang Kalihim ng Edukasyon upang baguhin ang petsa ng pasukan sa panahon ng pandemya habang walang kasiguraduhan sa kaligtasan at kalusugan ng kabataang Pilipino,” Gatchalian added.
Senate Bill 1541 is a substitute bill consolidating proposals by Senators Joel Villanueva, Francis Tolentino, and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.