MANILA – There is no need to suspend classes over fears of being infected with the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday.
Duque allayed fears of nCoV in the country following reports that some Chinese private schools in Metro Manila, particularly with teachers and students whose family members travel to and from China, have suspended classes as a precaution against nCoV.
He said there are no confirmed cases in the Philippines yet. There are currently 11 foreigners “under investigation” for possible infection.
“So far as the DOH is concerned, we are not aware of the reasons why they decided to suspend classes. There is really no need as of now, there is no indication,” Duque said in a Laging Handa press briefing in Malacañang.
He said the actions of these schools are not within the contemplation of the DOH interim guidelines on nCoV.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, for her part, pointed out while local governments have the authority to declare the suspension of classes in public schools, it was a slightly different case for the private sector.
“Private sector schools have a greater degree of autonomy than a public sector schools,” Briones said.
Regardless of whether a private school suspended classes or not, Briones said what mattered is that students do not lose the number of days face-to-face interaction with the teachers which is required by law.
Republic Act No. 7977 sets the school calendar to a maximum of 220 class days.
Meanwhile, Briones said schools could also hold make-up classes for the class days lost during suspension.
“I would advise these schools to consult with the Department of Health and with the local government. But as far as we in DepEd are concerned, since they’re relatively autonomous, they should not miss out on the number of school days for the learners,” Briones said.
She said the DepEd takes it lead from the DOH and their advisories on matters of health.
“Whatever challenges, whatever memorandum, whatever tips they give we immediately pass on to our schools for implementation and for compliance,” Briones said.
The nCoV was first discovered in Wuhan City in Hubei province in China on January 7 this year.
Since nCoV was identified by Chinese authorities in January 7 this year, there are a total of 80 deaths out of the 2,744 cases in China.
Modified school calendar
In anticipation of the return of students to their homes following Taal Volcano’s lower alert level 3 warning, Briones said the DepEd has proposed a modified school calendar which recommends the resumption of classes by February 3.
“We have a post modified school calendar which will enable the affected schools to catch up,” Briones said.
Based on the modified school calendar, students in Taal-affected schools will hold classes on Saturdays and Sundays until it reaches summer break in April.
Graduating students have to comply with the required number of classes because this is a requirement of law, she said.
Earlier, the DepEd ordered schools to take in displaced students with or without documentation to continue education and restore normalcy among the children’s lives.
With Taal Volcano’s lowered alert level, Briones also urged local governments to use their time wisely and build their own evacuation centers to avoid using schools.
According to Briones, over a thousand schools continue to be issued as evacuation centers.
“We look at this as a breathing space and opportunity to catch up with what is lacking to clean up and so on; and also to encourage local government to really comply with the law and answer positively in the call of the President himself,” Briones said.
President Rodrigo Duterte called for the construction of more evacuation centers during a January 14 situation briefing in Batangas just two days after Taal Volcano erupted. Azer Parrocha /PNA – northboundasia.com