EIGHT small private basic education institutions in Central Visayas have submitted their intent to the Department of Education (DepEd) 7 not to open and operate this incoming school year 2020-2021.
DepEd 7 Director Salustiano Jimenez said six of these academic establishments are kindergartens while two are elementary schools.
The schools were already asked to advise their learners from the school year 2019-2020 to transfer to other schools for the incoming school year.
Majority of the eight private schools are in Cebu and they told the DepEd 7 about their decision last July. The DepEd 7 cannot do anything else but to approve the private schools’ decision if they cannot comply with its requirements for a special permit, which is needed to operate online distance learning.
Jimenez said the schools possibly decided not to operate because they could not comply with the requirements for distance learning set by the DepEd central office, the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Private and public academic institutions have shifted to online learning to safeguard the health of their teachers and learners amid the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
To recall, the DepEd had said private schools may start their classes earlier than the mandated opening of public schools provided that there are no face-to-face classes. The opening of classes was initially scheduled on Aug. 24, but it was moved by the National Government to Oct. 5.
To be consistent with national directives and to ensure effective implementation of the K-12 basic education curriculum, the private schools under the DepEd 7 jurisdiction are required to submit their learning continuity plans showing their alternative modes of learning prior to the opening of classes.
For schools adopting online distance learning, the DepEd 7 requires them to acquire a learning management system (LMS), either a subscription-based program or internally developed.
An LMS is defined as a software used for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation and delivery of educational courses, and training, learning and/or development programs.
The schools must have the technical expertise to run and support the LMS. They must also have email facilities for all teachers and users.
Parents, too, must express their willingness to submit their children to online distance learning, and learners must have access to the necessary resources in order to learn the lessons.
Jimenez said private schools will be given special permits to operate for the delayed school year scheduled to open on Oct. 5 if they comply with all the requirements.
As to the eight private schools, Jimenez said he is optimistic that they can reopen in the next school year.
The DepEd 7 head said he has yet to determine the actual number of students, teachers and non-teaching staff affected by the schools’ decision not to operate.
The other problems in the private school sector involve the teachers’ salaries. Most private schools employ the no-work, no-pay policy; their income and budget for salaries largely depend on the enrollment turnout.
If a school has few enrollees, it possibly cannot pay all its teachers or meet the teachers’ salary grade.
Last summer, only private school teachers who held classes were paid, according to Jimenez.
“That is understandable because the school also is dependent on the tuition of the learners,” Jimenez said.
Public school teachers
As to public school teachers, Jimenez said their salaries are intact even if there are no classes.
The DepEd has an existing policy that gives proportional vacation pay, which is given in full to teachers who have rendered one year or more in the service and have not incurred more than three days of absences without pay from the beginning up to the end of the previous school year.
Jimenez said public school teachers have been receiving their salaries on earlier dates amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Asked if public school teachers will have a longer work year, considering they were asked to report last June and the end of the incoming school year is in June 2021, Jimenez said the workload of teachers in terms of preparations is not the same as the normal school year.
Jimenez said the teachers were told to work on their learning modules at their homes.
“If they were already done with the modules, they would not have to prepare much for the new school year,” Jimenez said.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 19, Central Visayas had around 1,815,000 enrollees for the school year 2020-2021.
The combined enrollment for public elementary, junior high school and senior high schools in the region is now at almost 96 percent that of the previous school year.
Jimenez said there are only two senior high school divisions in the region that have yet to attain 100 percent enrollment. These are the Cebu City Division and the Guihulngan City Division in Negros Oriental. (WBS)