school opening in PH

New law allows Duterte to start school year past August during calamities

Bonz Magsambol
The new law allows the President to 'set a different date' for the start of classes nationwide or in specific parts of the country

President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law that gives him the power to reopen schools later than August during a state of emergency, Malacañang announced on Monday, July 20.

The new law allows the President, upon the recommendation of the education department, to “set a different date” for the start of classes nationwide or in specific parts of the country. Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11480 on Friday, July 17, amending a previous law.

The new law covers all grade schools and high schools, including foreign and international schools. It will take effect upon publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones thanked Duterte and lawmakers for the new law, and promised to issue specific rules as soon as possible.

Despite calls to delay classes, Briones had reiterated on Wednesday night, July 15, that classes would open on August 24 “whatever form it is.” (READ: No backing down: Briones says classes will open on August 24 ‘whatever form it is’)

Many have criticized the DepEd’s decision to open schools in the middle of a health crisis. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)

Parents and students pointed out that the coronavirus lockdown has affected household finances, and many Filipinos don’t even have access to a computer or the internet. The President himself doubted the country’s capability to implement distance learning. (READ: Duterte on DepEd’s distance learning: ‘I don’t know if we’re ready’)

The DepEd decided to shift to distance learning for the coming school year to comply with the President’s directive for schools to postpone face-to-face classes until a coronavirus vaccine becomes available.

Below is the copy of the new law:

RA 11480 by Rappler on Scribd

This comes as a global debate rages about reopening of schools during the pandemic.

A study in South Korea showed that young people between 10 and 19 years old can spread COVID-19 as much as adults do, which means reopening schools can increase virus transmission. At the same time, a US scientific panel recommended face-to-face classes for children who are younger or who have special needs.

In May, experts at the University of the Philippines warned that COVID-19 transmission might increase should face-to-face classes open in Metro Manila schools in August and September.

Briones is set to present to Duterte on Monday the proposal of DepEd to allow “limited” face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.