ADDRESSING the mounting concerns and complaints from various sectors, a local basic education official has confirmed its ongoing efforts to gradually return to the traditional June start for the school year.
The Department of Education (DepEd) is slowly transitioning to revert to the June to March school calendar, years after the implementation of the new school calendar, DepEd Central Visayas (DepEd 7) Director Salustiano Jimenez told SunStar Cebu.
“We are still deliberating. The central office has been consulting the regional offices, down to consulting the school level as to the proposed calendar,” he said on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, adding that this was to bring the opening of the next school year closer to the school calendar before the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2020, then education secretary Leonor Briones announced that classes for the 2020-2021 school year would begin on Aug. 24 and end on April 30 of the following year.
However, then president Rodrigo Duterte later approved the DepEd’s recommendation to move the opening of classes to Oct. 5.
This adjustment took into account the logistical challenges in some areas facing mobility restrictions imposed in a bid to slow the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.
The following school year, classes started in September. And for the 2022-2023 school year, classes opened in August.
This school year, 2023-2024, classes will be from Aug. 29, 2023 to June 14, 2024.
Jimenez said they are currently finalizing the schedule, considering the series of consultations from different sectors, but they are looking to open the school year 2024-2025 by July.
He hopes that by the school year 2025-2026 and the succeeding school years, they will finally be able to revert to the June opening of classes again.
The decision to shift the school year’s start back to June is a response to numerous complaints regarding the challenges of conducting classes during the scorching summer months.
Filipinos consider March to May to be the summer months.
The move aims to alleviate the burden on students, teachers and educational institutions that have faced issues related to the intense heat and other climatic factors affecting the learning environment.
“Our classrooms are not designed for summer. We did not design it for extreme heat, especially when our heat index reaches 34 to 38 degrees Celsius. If that is the scenario, it will really be hot and our learners cannot concentrate on their studies,” Jimenez said.
The heat index, also known as the “feels-like” temperature, is a measure that considers both air temperature and relative humidity to determine how hot it feels to the human body. It plays a crucial role in assessing the potential health risks associated with hot and humid conditions.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), a heat index of 38 degrees Celsius falls under the extreme caution classification. This implies that it may pose health risks to those exposed to high temperatures.
Anya Amoro, 16, an incoming senior high school student, said she supports the move to bring back the traditional school calendar, saying she and her classmates are enduring intense heat, particularly in the afternoon.
Amoro, who is a Grade 10 student in Tejero National High School, said there are classrooms in their school that do not have electric fans to cool the students amid the heat.
“The idea is good, especially for students. It’s really challenging to endure the heat, especially during the afternoons,” she told SunStar on Thursday.
Jimenez said it’s not only students who are enduring extreme heat during the summer months but also the teachers who stay the whole day in schools.
SunStar Cebu reported last April that many students and teachers in Mandaue City called for the bringing back of the old school calendar after experiencing intense heat amid the hot and humid weather at the time.
Emelita Infante, a Master Teacher II at Ibabao-Estancia Elementary School, said humid weather had such a significant impact on students’ performance and learning in school that some of her fellow teachers had resorted to turning off classroom lights and opening windows.
“They keep on fanning themselves, and they get really sweaty because of the intense heat. They put a towel to wipe off the sweat, but sometimes they forget, and it gets soaked. This leads to developing bronchitis,” said Infante, who revealed that many of her students were falling ill with bronchitis.
According to another report, also in April 2023, the parent-teacher association in Mandaue City Comprehensive National High School contributed money to buy three electric fans to help alleviate the discomfort brought about by the hot weather.
Andre Jio Capa, a Grade 10 student, said his classroom had three fans—two on the ceiling and one stand fan. But he said these were not enough to cool the room because there were more than 50 students.
So Capa said their parents decided to share the cost of buying more fans. The price of a fan can range from P1,000 to P2,000 or even more, depending on the brand.