Due to summer heat:

Majority of public schools now conducting half-day classes

Most public elementary and secondary schools in Catanduanes are now conducting half-day face-to-face classes as part of their contingency plan for extreme heat this summer.

The local schools’ implementation of modular distance learning came after Department of Education (DepEd) Regional Director Gilbert Sadsad issued Regional Memorandum No. 56 reiterating DepEd Order No. 037, s. 2022, providing guidelines on the cancellation or suspension of classes and work in schools in the event of natural disasters, power outages and other calamities.

The DepEd memo gave the Schools Division Superintendent (SDS), in consultation with school heads, the Alternative Learning System (ALS) focal person and the parents of the learners, the authority and responsibility to implement a modified scheme that is deemed appropriate for the learners.

“The shift in the class schedule will promote safety and protection of learners and teachers from unnecessary physical danger that they may be exposed to these days,” Dir. Sadsad said as he said that learners could wear comfortable but decent clothes.

Learners will be provided self-learning modules covering all areas that they need in distance learning, along with clear instructions on lessons to be studied and tasks to be done, the DepEd Bicol head stated.

On the other hand, while the learners are in distance learning, teachers are allowed to work from home and perform their usual duties. A separate scheme may be adopted for non-teaching personnel.

“This flexible schedule in the schools will be in effect as long as it is necessary to protect the physical and mental well-being of the learners against the extremely high temperatures which can bring about heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” the memo added, clarifying that the days spent in distance learning shall be counted as regular class days.

Last week, Catanduanes Schools Division Office conducted a consultative conference with school heads to discuss the concerned memoranda on the issue, Schools Division Superintendent Socorro dela Rosa said in an interview.

Majority of public schools implemented the modified learning scheme but school heads have the leeway to come up with their own customized class schedule or type of alternate learning delivery mode, depending on the prevailing situation in their area or school, she disclosed.

There are some schools which did not implement the scheme due to opposition from parents, she added.

“The schedule will depend on the prevailing weather condition or extreme heat,” SDS dela Rosa stated, adding that the school head may revert to the usual face-to-face classes if the heat is no longer hazardous for the kids, teachers and school personnel.

The division office has yet to receive reports of incidents related to heat stroke or similar ailments brought by extreme heat, she bared.

It was explained during the consultative meeting last May 5, 2023 that the decision to resort to modular distance learning would depend on the situation of each school, as there are schools which have lots of trees or are not directly affected by the heat of the sun most of the day.

Out of the 22 schools in the Virac North District, for example, only eight, including the Virac Pilot Elementary School, have submitted their respective contingency plans on the implementation of blended learning.

Under the scheme, the former daily class schedule will be modified so that the morning and afternoon subjects are taken up during the morning face-to-face class at school, with the afternoon reserved for activities such as written assignments which will be done by the pupils at home.

VPES Principal Salve Templo said that classes for the 1,400 pupils from Kindergarten to Grade 6 are held in the morning from 7 AM to 12 noon, with teachers sending subject assignments to be done by the kids at home in the afternoon.

She lamented that the scheme is actually a bit costly due to the extra expense for bond paper and printer ink, as the school’s allocation for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) is limited.

But we cannot do anything about it as our priority is the health and safety of the pupils and employees, she stressed.

The VPES teachers consulted the parents and conducted a poll which showed that while some objected to the plan, the majority of the parents preferred the half-day class schedule.

While the school principal herself wanted the status quo as the pupils would learn less under modular learning, she decided to go for it due to complaints about the heat in the classrooms.

“Every day, there are pupils brought to the clinic complaining of dizziness during the hottest time of the day and they are immediately given attention by the school nurse,” Templo admitted.

Almost all classrooms at VPES have electric fans, most with four while others have as much as seven, while there is just one airconditioned room.

Under the blended learning, the time allocated per subject was reduced by 10 minutes to just 40 minutes in order to accommodate all the subjects within the half-day face-to-face schedule.

The 10 minutes deducted per subject are to be spent by the pupil at home in the afternoon for the written output.

Subjects such as English, Math, Filipino, Araling Panlipunan, Science, and MAPEH will be entirely through face-to-face discussion for 40 minutes each while the Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao will be taught through modules.

Principal Templo said the scheme was to have been implemented beginning Wednesday last week (May 3, 2023) but they had to wait for the approval of the request.

She called on parents to discuss any matter with the teachers before airing their comments.

The school head also asked her teachers to exercise patience in every situation, be calm and resilient at these times, assuring that the VPES management will do all it can to assure the safety of every pupil.

Meanwhile, records of the PAGASA Virac Synoptic Station showed that in April 2023, there was a total of six (6) days with “dangerous” heat index of 42ºC and above.

The same data, however, indicated that the same month of April last year was even hotter, with 21 days of heat index above 42ºC.

Aside from the probability of heat stroke, these heat index levels can cause heat cramps and heat exhaustion especially in cases of long exposure and continuous activity under the sun, PAGASA said.

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