JESS, a newly hired public school teacher, was looking forward to a vacation after spending so much time on the end-of-the-year activities for the school year 2021-2022.

While he was in the middle of planning for their upcoming summer getaway trip, the 23-year-old teacher from Catbalogan City, Samar found himself disappointed after the Department of Education (DepEd) announced that the new school year will open on August 22, 2022, depriving him of his academic break.

“I always thought the busy work would be compensated with enough rest. But never this,” Jess, who requested anonymity, told Sunstar Philippines.

“I always accepted the ‘busyness’ part, thinking of having enough rest after the school year,” he added.

Like many of the over 900,000 teachers in the country, Jess asked for an explanation.

DepEd earlier released the official school calendar of activities, which set the enrollment period on July 25, 2022, and other series of school-related activities that would drag the teachers back to their classrooms.

Benjo Basas, the national chairperson of the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) stressed that the government’s decision “will not give teachers enough time to rest.”

“While the previous school year officially ended on June 24, many teachers are still reporting to schools for academic duties to date for remedial and enrichment classes and the DepEd's Brigada Eskwela and in-service trainings,” he said.

On July 14, Benjo said they sent another letter request for a meeting with the education secretary “as the group appeals to reconsider the opening of classes.”

The group had asked DepEd to set the opening of school year 2022-2023 to mid-September “in order to comply with the mandated school break and vacation for teachers.”

In his letter, the TDC chairperson said that the teachers are still currently in the middle of various paperworks, trainings, while other activities “are projected to be accomplished up to August or beyond.”

“Being excluded from the sick and vacation leaves granted to other employees, teachers, under the existing Civil Service Commission (CSC) rules are entitled to vacation during school break; teachers, after a taxing school year of multiple teaching and learning modes under the pandemic need sufficient time for proper rest in order to prepare them physically, emotionally and mentally for the coming school year,” it said.

“The physical requirements of our schools including the need for classrooms and additional teachers still have to be considered addressed; factors such as public transportation and vaccination status of teachers and children are yet to be properly addressed,” the teacher group added.

Basas, however, said they support the government’s desire to gradually the schools for in-person classes until it reaches full implementation by November, following the order of the president.

“We, however, would like to reiterate that the aforementioned important factors should also be carefully considered. Indeed, there were instances in the past where the school calendar was modified and the school opening was moved to a later date as the needs demanded,” Basas said.

“We believe that the current situation merits the same kind of prudence,” he added.

Teacher solon France Castro also opposed the opening of classes in August this year, saying that aside from not getting longer rest, the teachers were not also assured that they would be paid enough for the excessive service they provide.

“We don't want to repeat what happened in school year 2020-2021 where it ended up in 'thank you,'” said Castro of ACT Teacher Partylist, a progressive political party representing the education sector.

“Stop the extra jobs and mountainous paperworks of teachers and give extra compensation to employment for the period beyond June 24, 2022 and before August 22, 2022. There are 220 days set aside for classes and other school related activities, activities such as graduation rites, recognition day, distribution of cards should be included during this period,” the solon said.

According to Castro, the education department “should not even take the rest time that the teacher should.”

“During June 25- August 22, 2022, our public school teachers should enjoy Proportional Vacation Pay (PVP). Our teachers no longer have sick leave, the teachers have not been able to fully rest due to the amount of paperworks and extra work imposed on them,” said Castro in a statement.

As this developed, Jess said he doesn’t feel good about the government’s move and its lack of a better explanation on the issue.

“I am losing my mind just thinking of my current load and those that are coming,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)