MANILA — Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go is commending the recent signing of Republic Act No. 11480, amending Section 3 of RA No. 7797, otherwise known as “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days”.

The amendment grants the President Rodrigo Duterte to set a different date, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, of the opening of a school year in the event a state of emergency is declared.

The deferred school opening is applied to all basic education schools, including foreign and international schools, throughout the country or parts of it.

“We will take this one step at a time so that we can protect the safety of our students. ‘Wag natin biglain. Let’s assess first what happens in the coming days. Kahit ayaw nating maantala ang klase nila, importanteng safe sila,” Go has said.

“Basta matuto ang lahat ng estudyante pero sana walang bagsak dahil mahihirapan pa po ang estudyante na mag-adjust sa makabago at iba’t ibang paraan ng pag-aaral. Health pa rin ang important. Sa kagustuhan nating makapag-aral ang mga bata, inuuna pa rin natin palagi ang interes, kapakanan at buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he added.

The Senator also expressed support for PRRD’s stand in staying firm in his decision to not allow face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found.

Go cautions there is no surefire way to safely conduct physical classes after scientific evidence suggests that COVID-19 is still evolving and continues to spread.

“Paghandaan natin kung papaano magpapatuloy ang ating pamumuhay sa panahon ng ‘new normal’. Maglatag po tayo ng kailangang policies and protocols para patuloy na makapag-aral ang kabataan sa paraan na hindi sila mailalagay sa alanganin,” he continues.

The Senator is adamant that no chance should be taken with any child’s health. He asks the concerned authorities to prioritize the safety of the students and teaching staff as they determine which health and safety guidelines and social distancing strategies are most appropriate for the country’s schools.

As the education system adopts blended learning methods to protect students from COVID-19, Go also urged the Department of Education to effectively explain to the public their action plan to address concerns of Filipinos in preparation for the upcoming school year.

“Proper preparations and training must be done so that teachers will be ready for this mode of teaching. Equipment must also be provided especially to far flung areas. Let us also not rely on internet-based techniques only since not everyone has access to fast and reliable internet access especially in rural areas,” Go reiterated.

“Kaya naman po hinihikayat ko ang DepEd na gawing mas accessible at inclusive ang kanilang mga programa para sa mga kabataan kahit saan mang parte ng bansa sa pamamagitan ng online at offline methods of teaching,” he added.

The Senator also urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology and other concerned agencies to work together to fulfill the vision of providing universal internet access that is stable and affordable for all Filipinos.

“Sa panahon ngayon, lahat nagta-transition na to online. From E-governance, E-commerce and also online learning. Importante na hindi po maiwan ang bansa pagdating sa pagkakaroon ng access to the internet. Malaki po ang maitutulong nito para mabigyan ang kabataan ng oportunidad na makapag-aral at makapag-trabaho sa ‘new normal’ na haharapin nating lahat,” he explained.

In order to extend additional assistance to public schools, Go previously filed Senate Bill No. 396 which seeks to amend the Local Government Code of 1991 by expanding the application of the Special Education Fund. The measure expands the Fund’s application to cover the operation of Alternative Learning Systems (ALS), including the payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of ALS facilitators.

“Kailangang masigurong maayos na nagagamit ng LGUs ang kanilang Special Education Fund para suportahan ang mga hakbang bilang paghahanda sa pagbubukas ng school year,” said Go. (ia/SPH)