Online classes still an option for August 24 opening, says DepEd

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 14) — When classes resume on August 24, face-to-face learning will still be prohibited in areas considered to have moderate to high risk of COVID-19 contamination, a ranking official of the Department of Education says.

Online learning may remain an option only for those who have access to the internet, the official also points out.

"Online learning will just be an option. We understand that not all students have internet access and can readily access these resources," DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said on Thursday during the virtual hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture led by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

The DepEd's learning continuity plan amid the pandemic has adopted a multi-modal approach which will be made "flexible" through the use of an online platform that will be readily accessible to students, San Antonio said.

This includes an access to the DepEd Commons online learning platform which was launched in mid-March. This platform contains learning resources available for about four million public school students.

However, the DepEd says in its latest guidelines that the learning intervention for students may depend on their educational background and their household capacity to distance learning.

"We are preparing the learning resources so that by August 24, we can start the lessons even on distance mode," San Antonio said on Thursday.

"Flexible" learning may be imposed, which implies the use of other medium such as online, television, radio and printed materials to facilitate home-based learning, Education Secretary Leonor Briones has previously explained.

Suspension of face-to-face classes will remain mandatory in areas categorized as moderate- and high-risk, based on the risk severity grading of the Department of Health.

The Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations of the Philippines said also on Thursday that based on their survey, over two million students under the K-12 curriculum are considering leaving private schools for the incoming school year due to the ongoing crisis.

Of the four million students enrolled in private schools, half are transferring from private schools or dropping out due to the economic impact of the pandemic, said COCOPEA managing director Atty. Joseph Estrada.

"It's an ongoing survey and we think it will still increase in the coming days. But we are anticipating around 50 percent of them will not be able to enrol," he said.

Schools and community learning centers under the supervision of the regional and schools division offices are authorized to decide on the specific learning delivery modalities which may be deemed appropriate in their context, DepEd officials said.

They said that the school year will officially open on August 24 and end on April 30, 2021, spanning 203 days in the school calendar.

Aside from the orientation of learners on alternative learning modes, the newly released calendar includes mental health and psychosocial support services for students days ahead of the opening.

Meanwhile, teachers may start rendering services on June 1 upon completion of summer vacation on May 31.