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DepEd Submits Aggressive Proposal for Academic Calendar Shift Amid Rising Temperatures

MANILA – In response to increasing calls for a return to the traditional April-May school break, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced Tuesday that it has submitted a “more aggressive option” to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to address the adverse effects of extreme heat on students and teachers.

The proposal comes as many schools have had to suspend in-person classes and shift to alternative delivery modes (ADMs) due to soaring temperatures. The proposed plan suggests ending the School Year 2024-2025 in March 2025, a significant change from the current academic calendar.

DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas, speaking at a Senate Committee on Basic Education hearing, emphasized that while this option is more aggressive, it would entail a shorter school year with compressed breaks. This adjustment might impact the rest periods for both learners and educators.

“To meet the required number of school days, we may need to implement ADMs or Saturday classes,” Bringas explained. “In-person classes under this plan would only span 165 days, fewer than the minimum required 180 days.”

Moreover, this change could affect the proportional vacation pay (PVP) for public school teachers, which is calculated based on the number of school days in a given year. “Teachers are entitled to two months of PVP after each school year. A shorter school year would reduce the PVP,” Bringas noted.

Despite the pressure for a swift shift, the DepEd has advocated for a “gradual reversion” to the old school calendar to mitigate the sudden impact on students and teachers. In line with this, the department issued adjustments in February, setting the end of the current School Year (SY) 2023-2024 on May 31. The following school year is scheduled to run from July 29, 2024, to May 16, 2025.

Challenges with Heat Index Measurement

A significant challenge in managing school schedules amid extreme heat is the variability of heat index forecasts from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Local government units and school heads currently rely on these forecasts to decide on ADMs.

“We are seeking PAGASA’s assistance to provide more precise heat index data,” Bringas said. He highlighted the difficulty in objectively assessing heat compared to more visible natural disasters like typhoons. Classroom conditions, such as congestion and limited ventilation, can exacerbate the perceived heat, complicating decision-making.

Bringas praised school heads and local government units for their flexible approaches to maintaining educational continuity while balancing learning recovery. Some schools have adjusted their schedules to avoid peak heat periods, conducting in-person classes from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

From April 8 to 26, the DepEd reported that 9,421 schools nationwide had implemented ADMs, affecting around seven million learners. Blended learning was the most commonly used ADM at 59.4%, followed by modular learning at 38%, and online learning at 2.6%.

“While there is no substitute for in-person classes, we are adapting to the current conditions to ensure the safety and continued education of our students,” Bringas concluded.


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