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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE: 5:14 PM) Saying all bases have been covered, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said Sunday the school system is ready for 21.49 millions students who are expected to troop back to school on Monday, even as authorities concede that traffic and rains spawned by 'Ambo' could compound the public's woes.
Luistro said well-phased, long preparations, including the Brigada Eskwela clean-up program and other partnerships with the private sector, helped a lot to ensure the smooth opening of classes.
However, while DepEd sounds confident about its own preparations, authorities are also bracing for other problems on class-opening day: traffic and bad weather, as tropical depression Ambo has started to push the southwest monsoon, unleashing rains in many parts of the country. Disaster-management officials advised local government units to be proactive in suspending classes in areas where the rains could lead to floods, especially on routes near schools.
Earlier on Sunday morning, MMDA officials said they foresee the worst traffic woes on school opening day in at least three areas: the Commonwealth Avenue area in Quezon City and the Ramon Magsaysay school area in Sampaloc, Manila, where big public schools are located; and the Katipunan area in Quezon City, which hosts several big private schools.
'No major problems'
The DepEd said they don’t foresee major problems when 1.73 million kindergarten, 14 million elementary and 5.76 million secondary flock to over 45, 000 elementary and secondary schools after a two-month summer break.
“We will be on full alert status together with our partners from other government agencies and the private sector to ensure that students are properly welcomed to schools tomorrow,” Luistro said Sunday.
“With the generous assistance provided by our stakeholders and the cooperation of the public, we are confident that, concerns, should there be any, will be responded to immediately and efficiently,” he added.
Last year, the actual enrolment for public schools was 20.48 million.
K to 12 debut
The opening of classes this school year will also be marked by the pilot implementation of the controversial K to 12 program in Grades 1 and 7 (first year high school).
The centerpiece of the Aquino administration’s efforts to reform the basic education curriculum adds two more years to the current 10-year basic education system and includes more technical-vocational specialization in the two years of senior high school.
Several teacher groups such as the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers Dignity Coalition TDC) earlier expressed apprehension about the program’s implementation, saying the Aquino administration should focus resources on resolving the problems plaguing the education sector like shortages in classrooms, teachers and sanitation facilities.
But Luistro has defended the program as necessary to upgrade the quality of education in the country.
“As we implement the new K to 12 curriculum for Grades 1 and 7 this school year, we made sure that public elementary and secondary schools across the country are ready for school opening,” the official said.
DepEd has taken measures, he said, to prepare schools months before today’s opening, especially teacher training for Grade School.
Luistro was pleased with the turnout of support for the National Schools Maintenance Week, commonly known as Brigada Eskwela. This was held on May 21 to 26 nationwide and mobilized local communities, local government units, private sector, non-government organizations and the civil society to help in the repair and cleaning of school buildings.
The department also pursued the annual Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) campaign, which seeks to address problems commonly encountered during school opening through the Information and Action Center, which will accept complaints and queries from the public until June 8.
The DepEd chief said they are also in close coordination with other government agencies included in the OBE Inter-Agency Task Force such as the Departments of Trade and Industry, Public Works and Highways, National Defense, Science and Technology, Transportation and Communications, Philippine Atmospheric and Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration, the Philippine National Police and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to ensure the safe and orderly opening of classes.
Weather bad on opening day
While the DepEd is confident about meeting requirements of school opening, other agencies are bracing for other school-opening problems: traffic and rains unleashed by tropical depression “Ambo.”
At least 21 other areas in Luzon which include Metro Manila and the Visayas should expect rainfall on the first day of school on June 4 due to Ambo enhancing the southwest monsoon or “hangin habagat”, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Sunday.
"The effect of these systems will bring occasional to frequent rains over Luzon and Visayas since Friday and onwards until the opening of classes on Monday, which may trigger flash floods and landslides (over 22 areas)," PAGASA administrator Nathaniel Servando said in a special outlook for the first day of classes.
In its outlook, PAGASA said flash floods and landslides may occur on Monday in parts of Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Antique, Aklan, Iloilo, Guimaras, Negros, Romblon, Masbate, Sorsogon, Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Batangas, Quezon, Aurora, Cavite, Bataan, Zambales and Metro Manila
PAGASA said Mindanao will be mostly cloudy skies with afternoon or evening rainshowers and thunderstorms.
Coastal waters along the seaboards of Southern Luzon and Visayas will be moderate to rough.
"Sea vessels en route along these areas are advised to exercise extra caution for possible big waves generated by monsoon surge while over the country will be slight to moderate seas," Servando said.
LGUs must declare class suspension
Meanwhile, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) head Benito Ramos reminded local government units (LGUs) they should be the ones to declare class suspensions due to bad weather conditions.
"The DepEd is leaving it up to LGUs to declare class suspension in their areas because they’re on the ground, they’re familiar with the place and they know if roads leading to certain schools are being flooded,” he said.