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September opening of classes: It’s about time

About three months since classes opened in June, at least 10 school  days have been lost  because of weather disturbances.

In addition, there were several instances when cancellations of classes were announced late and students were already on their way to school notwithstanding the danger of being out in the street during heavy rains and floods.

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And it is valid to assume that more typhoons and class disruptions will occur in the coming months as a result of the rainy season.

Given the frequent class suspensions, I really wonder if a teacher can still follow and finish what is in the lesson plan for the school year, and if the students will be able to comprehend everything that is presented in the syllabi, for their being absent from school means less time to learn.

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If this continues, even as we have this K-12 system in place so that students will have more years to study and prepare themselves for work, the quality of graduates we intend to produce will be affected.

Give it time

Senate Bill No. 2407, which I introduced, proposes the transfer of the school year from June to September—a move which surfaced sometime before but was not given enough time to be workable.

In this bill, I explained that the first three months of the school year, June, July and August, were the peak periods for typhoon in the country.

Thus, it has become impractical and unwise to commence the school year during the typhoon season as students, parents and school authorities have to deal with floods, landslides, diseases, lack of transportation and damaged school buildings.

Traffic congestion

In the urban areas, traffic congestion becomes worse with the onset of the rainy season due to floods and bad road conditions.

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Also, in flood-prone areas, school buildings are used as evacuation centers. These facilities can be better put to use if they are not being utilized as classrooms, and are ready and properly equipped for  emergency during the height of the rainy season.

DepEd

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) have already indicated the very reason for this measure.

According to these agencies, historical and scientific data show that there are more typhoons visiting the country from June—the month we start a new school year—to August, but devastating typhoons that make landfall usually hit starting September until December, citing Tropical Storms “Ondoy’’  of September 2009 and “Sendong’’ of December 2011.

Beyond our control

This confirmation  by the DepEd and Pagasa all the more gives us reason to really mull over changing our school calendar. The second half of the year is typhoon season and that is something beyond our control.

The present setup where students have to be in school all throughout the period is even worrisome given the affirmation by the DepEd and Pagasa, but we can summon  the resolve to act on it.

We can minimize the risk of getting our schoolchildren exposed to the adverse weather conditions by cutting short the months that students have to spend in  school during the rainy season.

Instead of going to school for the rest of the second half of the year, the proposal seeks to reduce to three months the time students spend in school during this period.

The more feasible approach, as I see it, is to start classes in September, for it would seem irrational to start classes in June and suspend it in September until December to avoid typhoons that make landfall.

Reducing casualty figure
Moreover, Benito Ramos, executive director of the the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, said in an interview on dzIQ that cancellation of classes was significant in lowering the number of casualties when typhoons hit the country since students and school staff just stay in their houses during rainy days.

Let me contextualize the proposal further. Not only will the revision of our school calendar address the frequent class suspensions, but it will also lessen the work of the authorities in charge of rescue  efforts whenever there are typhoons.

Source of concern

I know it is always a source of concern for parents like me whenever their sons and daughters leave the house so as not to miss school even if there are heavy rains and typhoons.

With this measure, class disruptions as well as the danger to health, life and limb that weather disturbances pose to our students will be minimized.

It’s about time that we change our school calendar.

 

(Sen. Franklin M. Drilon is the chair of the Senate finance committee.)

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