FEWER than half of the classrooms that were supposed to be built are ready for the new senior high school levels, which will open less than three weeks from today.
In Cebu Province, where the Department of Education (DepEd) allocated 1,038 classrooms, only 371 have been completed. Construction of 639 is ongoing, according to data sent by Cebu Provincial Schools Superintendent Dr. Rhea Mar Angtud.
In Cebu City, the initial target was to build 318 classrooms for senior high schools. But according to the latest assessment, only 52 may be done by the time classes open.
City Engineer Wendell Tabar explained that some schools still need to demolish some buildings or get a permit to cut trees that are in the way of school construction projects.
“Unya ang DENR, tag-dugay kaayo na sila mo-reply, about two to three months (It takes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources two to three months to reply),” Tabar said.
It’s DENR that issues tree-cutting permits, as well as tests the soil on classroom sites.
The latter requirement began to be strictly enforced after the October 2013 earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu. It was meant to make sure that classrooms, which often double as evacuation sites, can withstand quakes and other natural hazards.
Despite the lack of classroomss and qualified teachers, DepEd executives said Wednesday that Central Visayas is “fully prepared” for the first batch of Grade 11 students on June 13.
In a separate interview, DepEd 7 Senior High Coordinator Tomas Pastor said the agency is “95 percent ready” for it.
“By hook or by crook, madayon gyud (Senior high will proceed),” said Pastor.
Almost 84,000 students are expected to enter Grade 11 next month in Central Visayas.
Nationwide, the expected number is 1.3 million students.
Pastor, in a forum, explained that when DepEd asked the public works department about the delays in building classrooms, they were told that soil testing was one of the factors.
The construction of 1,249 additional classrooms in the 13 divisions of Central Visayas is expected to be finished by October.
“In the first cohort, we have an initial allocation of 2,117 classrooms. This year, we hope to finish 3,581 classrooms,” said Pastor.
The first cohort refers to the number of classrooms needed in order to house the Grade 11 students. The second cohort is for Grade 12, which will start only next school year.
Pastor explained that DepEd intends to build more classrooms than their initial target this year, in order to start the construction for the second cohort early.
The “catch-up plan” is to increase the number of students per section, in order to free some of the functional classrooms, which Grade 11 students can then use.
Meanwhile, officer-in-charge Dr. Joelyza Arcilla of the DepEd Cebu City School Government and Operations Division said that only 106 out of 305 teachers are qualified to teach senior high’s specialized tracks.
“Ang problema kay wala kaayo’y ni-qualify sa gusto mo-teach with permanent position (Few qualified among those who wanted a permanent teaching position),” Pastor added.
The Civil Service Commission is in charge of vetting teachers who want to teach senior high students.
One can apply to be a senior high teacher if one belongs to an industry connected to the senior high tracks, holds a Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) license and has passed the Licensure Exam for Teachers, even if one’s undergraduate degree is not education.
“If and when more teachers are needed, underloaded junior high teachers can handle this. Grade 11 will focus on common subjects,” Arcilla said.
Specialization will only start in Grade 12.
In Cebu Province, DepEd expects 29,240 SHS enrollees. Of this number, 6,222 are part of the voucher program.
The voucher program allocated P20,000 as assistance for senior high school enrollees in urban areas and P17,500 for those in rural areas. This is good for one school year.
This being the first year of the senior high school levels, DepEd officials expect that “anything may happen” but assured that they are ready.
“We are fully prepared. Recently, our (DepEd) central office has given us a manual of operation for school heads and principals,” said Public Relations Officer Amaryllis Villarmia of DepEd 7.
The K+12 manual contains operating procedures from Day 1 to the implementation of senior high.
In the same forum, DepEd 7 disclosed there are only 10 public high schools that will not offer senior high school levels in the region. But not all schools offering senior high will offer all the tracks.
Sixteen-year-old Alliah Mae Moran said she will move from her current public school in Dalaguete to a private university in Cebu City. The same thing goes for 17-year-old Ken Michael Taban-od.
“Senior High School is really a big positive reform for us Filipinos. I think it will be an advantage because it will help us focus on the subjects we need to learn and only the subjects that are relevant to our preferred course,” Taban-od said.
Moran said that at first, she considered the two additional years a setback. But after hearing her teachers explain it, she realized it would greatly help those who aren’t sure they can go to college.
Moran wants to take up the Humanities and Social Sciences Strand (HUMMS) under the academic track. She will move to a university because that track is not offered in the public school where she finished Grade 10.
Taban-od will also transfer to a university because his family believes that the public school where he finished Grade 10 is not yet equipped enough for senior high. Lorrane Mitzi Ambrad, USJ-R Intern