#AcademicBreakNow: Groups, netizens call for school recovery period after typhoons

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 16)— Several groups and netizens are urging educational institutions to declare an “academic break” as students and teachers try to recover in the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco).

In a social media post over the weekend, the Kabataan party-list said the declaration would be reasonable in light of the challenges posed by the blended and distance learning programs.

“Declare an academic break to assess the current education situation, review faculty and student workload, implement a 'no fail' policy, and provide aid to those in need of food, shelter and other necessities. It's also important to move deadlines,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said in a statement.

Makatwiran lamang ito sa tindi ng pinsala ng kalamidad sa buhay, bahay, imprastruktura ng internet, komunikasyon at iba pang kailangan sa blended distance education,” she added.

[Translation: This is reasonable because of the strong damage brought by the typhoon to our lives, homes, internet infrastructure, communication, and other requirements for blended distance education.]

Advocacy group #MentalHealthPH also appealed for schools to “hear their students” amid the recent crises.

The hashtag #AcademicBreakNow also dominated social media’s top trending topics on Monday, with students from universities such as the University of Makati and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila calling for a breather.

Some universities in Metro Manila, including the University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Ateneo de Manila University, have earlier announced week-long suspension of classes to allow a recovery period for members of their communities.

'Academic easing' instead of 'academic freezing'

Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio emphasized the class suspensions declared by local government units due to Typhoon Ulysses act as an 'academic freeze' for students, especially those who are affected by the calamity.

San Antonio underscored the importance of 'academic easing,' which he said the Department of Education advocated after it observed students felt 'overwhelmed' during the first weeks of blended classes. He added that the DepEd talked to teachers and school officials to be more considerate in giving assignments to students, and not be too strict in meeting deadlines.

Schools and universities in the country have earlier switched to online and blended learning programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When we monitored the first few weeks of classes, we noted that learners are overwhelmed not because the requirements were really overwhelming. We realized the seven months of disengagement from learning activities somehow aggravated this," San Antonio told CNN Philippines' Rico Hizon on Monday night.

Joel Santos, co-founder of Thames International School, supported the idea of integrating 'academic easing' among students to respond to their mental health concerns while studying at home.

"Even if learning continues online, we would like to request to give at least one day to allow socialization for students. We should also take note of the mental and wellness effect of the students, the more we keep them in our houses," Santos appealed.

San Antonio assured DepEd is studying the possibility of mixing blended learning and limited face-to-face classes by January 2021, which will be first implemented in COVID-19 low-risk areas.