Press Release
May 7, 2020

Tolentino: give DepEd secretary power to defer opening of classes, shorten school year

The Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) will have the power to defer opening of classes and shorten the start of school year during emergencies and calamities once measures filed by Sen. Francis "Tol" Tolentino are enacted into law.

In his Senate Bill No. 1457, Tolentino wants to amend Republic Act No. 7977 to give the DepEd Secretary the authority to the opening of classes and the start of school year to a date later than August if calamities and emergencies occur before the start of the school year.

Tolentino also submitted Senate Bill No. 1458, empowering the DepEd Secretary to shorten the school year and mass promote the students during calamities and emergencies, such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Currently, Tolentino explained that Republic Act No. 7977 provides that the start of the school year should not be later than the last day of August.

"Dapat nang amyendahan ang batas na ito, lalo pa ngayon na nahaharap tayo sa epidemya ng COVID-19 at hindi natin talaga alam kung kailan maaaring magbukas ang mga paaralan," said Tolentino.

"There really still no certainty as to when the country will be able to effectively control this contagion and this will certainly put students at risk of contracting the disease as they attend and congregate in schools in the usual opening of classes in June of 2020," he added.

Department of Secretary Leonor Briones had earlier said that the opening of school year 2020-2021 has been set on August 24, going against the earlier recommendation of IATF to have the school year start on late September which was also supported by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In this regard, Tolentino underscored the need to amend Republic Act No. 7977 to avoid any legal dilemma and afford the government and the schools more time to effectively implement safety measures to secure the health of the students attending their classes.

Also, Tolentino wants Republic Act No. 7977 amended to authorize the DepEd Secretary to cut short the school year from the prescribed 220 days and give passing marks to affected students.

"The law on the matter, Republic Act No. 7977, does not allow for such humane measure as it provides that the school year shall be not more than 220 days and ending or shortening the school year may be considered a violation. Hence, there is a need to amend the law," he said.

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