DepEd allows schools to suspend classes in response to heat
In response to the ongoing heatwave affecting many regions in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) has announced that school authorities are permitted to suspend in-person classes to protect the health of students and staff. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has urged the government to consider returning to the previous school calendar, arguing that public schools are ill-equipped to handle high temperatures during the dry season.
DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa emphasized that school principals and administrators have the authority to suspend in-person classes and implement alternative delivery modes (ADMs) if the heat poses a threat to the well-being of students and staff. This statement comes after growing concerns from parents and teachers about the increasingly hot weather.
Cabuyao City’s Mayor Dennis Hain took action by suspending classes at Gulod National High School Extension after 83 students were hospitalized for heat exhaustion during fire and earthquake drills. This incident led Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian to call for a return to the previous school calendar and reinstate the April-May summer vacation.
ACT secretary-general Raymond Basilio stated that the current hot weather, expected to last until next month, should encourage DepEd to revert to the old school calendar with classes beginning in June. Basilio argued that holding classes during the hot and dry season is not conducive to the Philippine context, particularly in public schools. He also emphasized that the decision to suspend classes is only a temporary solution.
In May 2020, DepEd moved the opening of the school year 2020-2021 from June to August due to the pandemic, and this change was continued for the 2022-2023 school year by Vice President Sara Duterte, the education secretary. The decision was based on Republic Act No. 11480, which allows the education secretary to set the start date for the school year, particularly during a state of calamity.
The Department of Health has warned of the dangers of heat stroke, a medical emergency that can result from exercise, prolonged sun exposure, or dehydration. If left untreated, heat stroke can cause damage to vital organs and even result in death. Symptoms include dizziness, fainting, headache, intense thirst, dehydration, and a high temperature with a rapid heartbeat. To stay cool during hot days, the DOH advises avoiding excessive time outdoors, drinking water instead of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, wearing wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved clothing, and scheduling strenuous activities for cooler times of the day.