The Department of Education (DepEd) has underscored the setbacks of returning outright to the pre-pandemic school calendar which starts in June and the summer vacation set for April and May.
Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro appealed to the DepEd to return the summer vacation of students to April-May.
DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said among the factors to consider is the minimum number of school days covered by the school year.
“For this school calendar, 203 days po ng schooling iyong sinusunod natin. So hindi natin mami-meet iyan ‘pag bigla tayong mag summer break,” Poa said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
“We take note the suggestions to revert the school break to April-May because of the hot climate, but we need to study it first,” “If there is a chance, we will announce it, but the changes will be definitely not abrupt. It will have to be a slow transition,” he added.
Poa pointed out that they have to identify which areas that would be affected, and weigh the arguments on reverting to the pre-pandemic school calendar.
He ruled out however, the possibility of the transition taking place this year because of the timetable involved.
“In the years to come, we will have to really look into it and study first what will be affected. But again, we are not saying reversion is not an option,” Poa said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian suggested earlier to bring back the April–May vacation in schools amid intense heat due to the warm and dry season.
The school break in public schools was moved to different months over the last three years, as school opening dates were adjusted amid the pandemic: School year 2020-2021 began in October, the September in 2021-2022, and August in 2022-2023.
Meanwhile, full in-person end-of-school-year classes were back this year.
This was a first since the pandemic. In previous years, only virtual, hybrid, or limited in-person graduation and moving-up ceremonies were allowed.
Under DepEd Department Order No. 9 series of 2023, “observance of physical distancing shall no longer be mandatory” and “the wearing of face mask during the ceremonies is not required and shall be left to the discretion of the learners and their parents.
“Graduation and Moving Up ceremonies should be simple yet meaningful. While these rites mark a milestone in the lives of the learners, these should be conducted without excessive spending, extravagant attire, or extraordinary venue,” the order read.
“Reverting the summer vacation of students to April-May at the soonest time possible would be best since students and teachers are now suffering the intolerable heat in jam-packed classrooms,” Castro stressed.
Castro issued the call on the heels of a recent survey by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines that showed the serious difficulties that teachers and learners endure during the harsh summer heat in classrooms.
According to 87 percent of ACT’s online survey among 11,706 public school teachers nationwide, which was conducted from March 24 to 27, 2023, students cannot focus on their lessons due to intolerable heat in classrooms.
About 37 percent said that the summer heat triggered the existing medical conditions of teachers and students. There are 40 percent of respondents who noted that more learners have been missing classes since the summer months started, Castro said referring to the survey result.
The heavy reliance on electric fans for ventilation is insufficient, as only one percent of classrooms have air conditioners and two percent rely on natural ventilation. Moreover, only 0.5 percent of respondents deem their classroom conditions as pleasant, while 67 percent noted that the heat is intolerable.
The survey also revealed that 64 percent of teacher-respondents have existing medical conditions while 82 percent have students with temperature-sensitive ailments. This situation has led to many students and teachers experiencing headaches, dizziness, nose-bleed, and other health issues.
“Unfortunately, our schools have no appropriate health facilities and personnel to address these concerns, and absenteeism is becoming a more serious problem,” Castro stated.
The group earlier called on the DepEd to urgently address this issue and provide solutions to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and teachers. The teachers proposed the installation of air conditioners in classrooms, changing the class schedules to avoid the hottest hours of the day, and implementing blended learning by alternately holding face-to-face classes in the mornings and distance learning modalities at home.
Furthermore, they demand that the school calendar be reverted to its pre-pandemic schedule when school break coincided with the summer months, Castro stressed.