THE Department of Education (DepEd) said it is ready for the scheduled opening of classes on Monday, October 5, despite problems and other issues it is facing regarding its preparation.

DepEd-Davao Region Assistant Supervisor for Action Emma Camporedondo said teachers were already prepared for the opening of the school year 2020 to 2021 under the "new normal" setup as they were trained to handle different modalities such as the online distance learning.

"We have prepared our teachers for this, for the different modality. We have training for teachers on learning management systems as well as Microsoft Software," Camporedondo said during the Kolokabildo 2020 virtual forum of the Holy Cross of Davao College Mass Communication Program on Friday, October 2.

Camporedondo said 98 percent of the total teachers in the region were already trained for the school opening, while the remaining two percent were on leave.

The DepEd official also said they already conducted dry-run classes with their students.

"In terms of our students, we've prepared our learners through our parents, also, with the parents' orientation. And also, we coordinated with the barangay officials with regards to this," Camporedondo said.

Originally scheduled on August 24, the opening of the school year was moved to October 5 to “fill in the remaining gaps of the school opening” that the teachers are currently addressing.

DepEd-Davao Spokesperson Jenielito Atillo told SunStar Davao in a text message that the department will be conducting a nationwide kick-off program at the Davao City National High School to jumpstart the resumption of classes in all public schools in the region.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a previous SunStar report, said they are ready to implement blended learning, which is a combination of online distance learning and in-person delivery of education materials to the homes of learners. DepEd will also be using TV and radio as a medium of instruction in the distance learning setup.

Unlike in the elementary and secondary education, most tertiary schools already started their flexible learning and teaching methods since June, while other higher education institutions will have to start their opening this October.

Christopher Pio Pulido, Commission on Higher Education (Ched) Supervising Education Programs specialist, admitted that some tertiary schools are still catching up in adapting to the online distance learning as the current "flexible learning" setup.

"We admit that not all educational institutions are 100-percent ready," Pulido said, adding that some schools in the region cannot sustain the needed requirements to resume operations amid the pandemic.

Issues and concerns; calls for academic freeze

Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali admitted in a Laging Handa briefing Saturday, October 3, that they are still conducting distribution of self-learning modules to students two days before the classes begin.

Different youth groups in the country had been pushing for an academic freeze due to the existing issues and alleged lack of preparedness in the nationwide resumption of classes.

College Editors Guild of the Philippines Mindanao President Grecian Asoy said students and teachers have already expressed their concerns and doubts in its efficient implementation, saying that the country is not yet prepared to adapt to a new learning modality amid the pandemic.

Asoy raised the lack of gadgets for both teachers and students, especially those who will be conducting and attending their classes online.

She also said some had to shed money for laptops and internet connection despite some parents losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Students and teachers have seen that it is difficult to push through with the online class because of different factors. If we are going to look with these factors, it is important to go beyond our privileges and have a wider perspective of things," Asoy said.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Davao City (ACT-Davao City) division President Reynaldo Pardillo, for his part, said they also saw the lack of preparedness for the opening of public schools in the region.

Pardillo said they have not finished the distribution of modules.

He said their group also aired their disappointment for DepEd's lack of assistance in terms of helping them in the preparation of the modules and the materials for its printing.

He said that while the rescheduling of the opening had somewhat given them more time to prepare, teachers and students are facing financial and technical problems in distance learning such as the lack or absence of gadgets and poor internet connectivity.

He said an academic freeze is not the solution to address the problem in the current education system.

"What we call is for a safe, quality, and accessible education for all in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. We call on the Duterte administration to help our public school system by providing sufficient funding for DepEd, strengthening health standards in school campuses, technical and logistical assistance for teachers, and incorporating Covid-19 information campaigns in the curriculum," Pardillo said.