Modular, online classes will remain suspended for now

ONLY ONE BUILDING WAS LEFT UNTOUCHED by super typhoon Rolly at the Agban National High School in Baras town, one of the hardest hit school facilities in the southern towns. DepEd is now working with DPWH to design stronger buildings to better withstand typhoons.


There will be no modular or online classes for now until the damage brought by super typhoon Rolly and typhoon Ulysses on school facilities and resources, as well as power and wifi connectivity, are sufficiently addressed.

This was declared in separate statements last week by the Department of Education (DepEd) Catanduanes Schools Division and the Catanduanes State University (CatSU).

In an interview at her office. DepEd Catanduanes Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Ma. Luisa T. dela Rosa said the distribution and retrieval of modules has been suspended until further notice until a team from the Curriculum Instruction Division (CID) now deployed in the field has determined what happened to the modules and whether they were lost or damaged.

For the meantime, she disclosed, the division is providing psychosocial support to teachers and pupils, with the latter being brought candies and encouraged to share their typhoon experiences in informal discussions with school principals and other officials.

“This situation is a big challenge in the DepEd’s effort to deliver relevant learning,” ASDS Dela Rosa stated, citing the difficulties faced by pupils under the modular learning, which is even harder than what they were used to in face-to-face classes.

According to the Rapid Assessment of Damages Report (RADAR) as of Nov. 20, 2020 submitted to Schools Division Superintendent Danilo Despi, who went home to Zamboanga City last week, public schools in Catanduanes sustained total damage to 270 classrooms.

Another 1,068 classrooms suffered major damage while 508 others had minor damage, the report said.

The storm also inflicted damage on non-infrastructure resources, including tens of thousands of learning materials and thousands of pieces of furniture as well as hundreds of computers.

A team of engineers from the DepEd central and regional offices are still visiting the rest of the 276 public schools in the province to physically check the damage wrought by typhoon Quinta, super typhoon Rolly and typhoon Ulysses pursuant to the instruction of Undersecretary for Regional Operations Revsee Escobedo who visited the island recently along with Undersecretary for Operations Allaine Pascua and Regional Director Gilbert Sadsad.

In the week after Rolly, Undersecretary Annabelle Pangan also traveled here with Assistant Regional Director Ronelo Al Firmo to look at the destruction to DepEd schools.

The DepEd delegations visited facilities in Virac, San Andres and Bato, especially the hard-hit Bote Integrated School, Bato Central Elementary School, Catanduanes National High School, Virac Pilot Elementary School, Juan M. Alberto Memorial Elementary School, Sto. Domingo Elementary School and Antipolo Elementary School and Antipolo National High School.

ASDS Dela Rosa bared that last Nov. 19, a delegation from Sorsogon City division office arrived to distribute food packs to pupils’ parents in Sto. Domingo and Bote, with numerous donations coming in from other divisions in the Bicol region, Metro Manila and Zamboanga City for learners and parents.

This week, she added, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) team from the central office will come in to bring food packs to areas needing relief as identified by division and CID personnel now conducting an assessment in the field.

At the Catanduanes State University where online classes were suspended starting Nov. 6, 2020 until further notice, the administration of Officer-in-Charge and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Regional Director Dr. Freddie T. Bernal has yet to decide when it will resume.

Atty. Gregorio M. Sarmiento Jr., the Chief Administrative Officer who has been designated as Vice President for Administrative and Financial Affairs, said the resumption of classes, which was suspended just as the midterm examinations were supposedly completed, would be dependent on how fast utility companies would be able to restore power and internet connectivity to all 11 towns.

While the five northern towns of Caramoran, Pandan, Bagamanoc, Panganiban and Viga appears to have sustained only slight damage, it would be unfair to majority of students to start online classes there earlier, he stressed, as 60 percent of CatSU’s enrolled students come from the heavily-damaged municipalities of San Andres, Virac, San Miguel, Bato, Baras and Gigmoto.

Students from towns which have no electricity but with wifi connections cannot just go to the lighted neighboring towns just to charge their phones as transportation costs remain prohibitive due to the COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, Sarmiento underscored.

Most likely, the first semester would be extended by as much as one month beyond the scheduled Dec. 19, 2020 end of classes but extra class days could be lower, as long as the students will not be shortchanged as far as lessons are concerned, the CatSU official disclosed.

This means the university will not be able to offer summer classes so as to accommodate the extension of the first semester and the usual duration of the second semester.

OIC Bernal has reportedly instructed while classes remain suspended, all faculty members are to prepare hard copies of concise lessons which will be printed and distributed free of charge to enrolled students before the semester ends.

“We don’t want to unduly burden students but we have to make sure they learn something from the semester,” Atty. Sarmiento said.

A team has been deployed to all 11 municipalities to survey the situation of university students regarding power situation and internet connectivity in their respective areas, as well as the possibility of their being able to in online classes once they resume.

The team also seeks to find out whether the flash drives the university distributed to students are still with them or have been lost or damaged during the storm. The drives have been loaded with lessons for the first half of the semester.

Some part-time instructors have reportedly volunteered to meet face-to-face with their students two or three times to deliver a crash course on the lessons lost due to super typhoon Rolly, as some lessons in certain colleges cannot be taught on-line.

On the other hand, Atty. Sarmiento denied reports that around 300 Job Order (JO) or Contract of Service (COS) workers of the university would be laid off by the end of the year.

He clarified what while the contracts covering the hiring of the JOs and COS workers will indeed expire by Dec. 31, 2020, they will be rehired next year as the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has allowed National Government Agencies (NGAs), Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) to engage the services of such workers until 2022.

In Joint Circular No. 2 issued Oct. 20, 2020, the COA and DBM authorized the government agencies to enter into service contracts with other government agencies, private firms, non-government agencies or individuals for services related or incidental to their respective functions and operations, whether on a part-time or full-time basis.

The agencies were previously allowed to renew the individual contracts of existing COS/JO workers up to Dec. 31, 2018, as the DBM was supposed to approve the revised organizational staffing pattern of the agencies.

However, the approval has yet to be granted, forcing an extension of the transition period until Dec. 31, 2020.

Like other NGAs, GOCCs and SUCs, the university has already submitted a revised staffing pattern that would address existing needs and gaps of the appropriate human resource complement for its programs, projects and activities.

Once approved, it could consider existing qualified COS/JO workers for appointment to vacant positions, with the hiring of new casual or contractual personnel to be allowed only for projects and activities that are temporary in nature.

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