MANILA, Philippines --- The Department of Education (DepEd) will no longer announce the suspension of classes during a storm, saying local governments "are in a better position to assess the local situation."
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said on Friday that DepEd has always been swamped with complaints whenever suspension of classes is "announced late."
"The parents as well as students don't have to wait for DepEd to announce classes since the responsibility now lies with the local government officials," Luistro said. He said the directive for local governments to assume responsibility in announcing class suspensions is contained in Executive Order No. 66 signed by President Benigno S.Aquino III on January 9.
"Based on that, DepEd then crafted DepEd Order 43 to guide its regional, division and school officials on actions to take in times of calamities and adverse weather conditions. The order applies to both public and private schools," Luistro said.
The automatic cancellation of classes during typhoons will still be based on the storm signal raised by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), "but the Department is no longer responsible when it comes to announcing it."
Under DepEd Order No 43, classes in pre-school and kindergarten classes are automatically suspended on Storm Signal No. 1.
Elementary and secondary are called off on Signal No. 2, and classes in all levels on Signal No. 3.
The announcement of the class suspension will depend on the prevailing storm signal between 10 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
Luistro said that in the absence of a storm signal, classes in public and private schools and work in government offices in specific areas may be called by the local chief executive in their capacity as chairpersons of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (LDRRMC).
"Also, based on the recent inter-agency Oplan Balik Eskwela Task Force meeting, PAGASA will include in its weather bulletin not only the storm signal but the reminder to suspend classes depending on the storm signal," Luistro said.
Luistro made it clear that "a school head may only cancel or suspend classes in cases where urgent action is needed to prevent bodily harm or loss of lives."
The concerned local DepEd and private school officials are directed to coordinate closely with local governments in times of bad weather.
Local government heads must announce the cancellation of classes not later than 4:30 a.m. for a whole day cancellation and 11 a.m. for afternoon class suspension.
Luistro said the safety and welfare of students during inclement weather is a "shared responsibility" and should not be left to the Department or local government alone. "We would like to remind the parents that the final decision to let their children go to school or not is left to their judgment with or without an official announcement from the DepEd or the local government officials," he said.
In colleges and universities, it is left to the individual schools to suspend classes.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said it cannot suspend classes but schools can. CHED Chairman Patricia Licunan said that while this policy is not perfect, "it is the most workable and best suited to the needs of higher education institutions (HEIs), faculty and students."
Licuanan said that based on CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) 34 series of 2010, classes in the college level are automatically suspended on Storm Signal Number 3.
"Otherwise the decision is left to school heads or local governments," she said.