MANILA – The opening of classes cannot be moved unless the Congress passes a law allowing it to be pushed to a later date, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after Vice President Leni Robredo urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to move the opening of classes to a date where schools are more prepared to implement distance learning, particularly for students with special needs.

“Well, as far as the actual date of classes, may batas po iyan ‘no (there’s a law on that). We have to comply with the law which is the last week of August. Unless Congress will pass a law providing that we could open on a later date,” he said in a virtual presser.

He was referring to Republic Act 7797, also known as “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) days to not more than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days,” which provides the “school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.”

On June 1, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1541 giving President Rodrigo Duterte authority to adjust the opening of classes beyond August 2020 while the country is currently under a state of national emergency.

The measure was already sent to Malacañang for signature of the President after the House of Representatives adopted the Senate version.

The DepEd has set the opening of school year 2020-2021 on August 24, 2020 while the end of school year will be on April 30, 2021.

Last month, Duterte turned down the opening of face-to-face (F2F) classes until a vaccine that could protect persons against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) would be developed.

However, Roque said Duterte may be open to the possibility of holding F2F classes in areas with no Covid-19 cases.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones vowed to comply with Duterte’s directive, saying students will remain at home indefinitely and instead utilize “blended’ and “distance” learning methods in light of the health crisis which would make use of radio, television, online and modular learning.

Private schools and state or local universities and colleges (SUCs/LUCs) will be allowed to open classes earlier provided that “no face-to-face classes” will be allowed earlier than August 24.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) using full online education can open anytime while those using flexible learning can open anytime in August.

HEIs using face-to-face or in-person classes can open not earlier than September 1.

Curricular and co-curricular activities that draw large crowds such as science fairs, school sports, campus journalism and other similar activities will be canceled. (PNA)