Scorching heat forces hundreds of class halts

Malls and other open public spaces are filled with people who try to stay away from the searing dry season heat exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon. (Francis Allan Angelo photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Jennifer P. Rendon

With the heat index reaching dangerous levels, 246 public schools across Western Visayas transitioned to modular and online distance learning on Monday, April 1.

Iloilo City has seen 66 school suspensions, Roxas City with 50, Kabankalan City with 91, Silay City (39), Himamaylan City (54), and Dumangas town in Iloilo province with 35.

In Guimaras, all 81 schools shifted to remote learning by school heads’ orders.

These decisions impact a total of 192,525 students, according to Hernani Escullar Jr., the Department of Education Western Visayas (DepEd-6) information officer.

This precautionary measure is in response to the heat index predictions by PAGASA, which anticipates temperatures between 41 to 42 degrees Celsius for the region on April 1 and 2, posing risks of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and probable heatstroke with extended exposure.

The shift to alternative learning modes is a proactive measure prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff, especially where classroom ventilation is inadequate.

The suspension coincides with the scheduled National Achievement Test (NAT) for April 2. The administration of the NAT will be contingent upon further decisions by DepEd, considering the extreme temperatures.

If in-person classes remain suspended past April 5, DepEd-6 may consider rescheduling the NAT.

Schools are prepared for the sudden switch to modular learning, with the assurance that the total number of school days remains unchanged, as distance learning counts towards the academic calendar.

Teachers are permitted to work from home, focusing on student output for monitoring and evaluation purposes.

DepEd-6 officials have called on parents to support and oversee their children’s education at home.

Escullar reassured that no heat-related health incidents among learners or staff have been reported since the onset of the year, reflecting the region’s readiness and adaptive measures initiated since last March.

MODULAR LEARNING

Mayors of affected areas, including Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City, have suspended face-to-face classes, with potential extensions based on weather forecasts.

Escullar, Jr., Dep-Ed 6 regional information officer, said 66 public schools cancelled classes in Iloilo City, affecting 78,863 learners from pre-school to senior high school. The area also has 110 private schools offering pre-school, elementary and/or secondary teaching.

Mayor Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City announced the cancellation of onsite classes on April 1 and 2 over the forecasted heat index of 41°C “unless otherwise extended or lifted earlier.”

Treñas has also enjoined school heads to implement appropriate measures to ensure the health and safety of students and staff within school premises which includes adoption of alternative learning delivery modes in view of the face-to-face classes.

Treñas said they might extend the suspension of face-to-face classes from pre-school to senior high both in public and private schools depending on the heat index forecast.

Through Executive Order (EO) No. 047 – 2024 issued March 31, Treñas declared the suspension of classes from April 1 to 2, 2024, after the Department of Science and Technology -Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (DOST-PAG-ASA) forecasted a heat index of 41 degrees Celsius and 42 degrees Celsius, respectively.

“In the event that in the succeeding days, forecasted heat index in Iloilo City be 40 degrees Celsius or above, face-to-face classes will continue to be suspended. Resumption of face-to-face classes will proceed once the heat index is below 40,” the EO read.

During Monday’s press conference, Treñas emphasized that the health of students is the primary concern since most of the classrooms especially in public schools are not well-ventilated.

OTHER SUSPENSIONS

Meanwhile, Roxas City Mayor Ronnie Dadivas announced the suspension of classes from pre-school to senior high school on April 1.

As for college students, Dadivas said he’s leaving the discretion to the school administration whether to suspend classes or not.

DepEd-6 said the suspension involved 50 public schools with 32,179 students.

Dadivas’ Executive Order (EO) No. 11 stated that “in the event in the succeeding days, the forecasted heat index in Roxas City is 40 degrees Celsius or above, face-to-face classes will continue to be suspended.”

The EO added that face-to-face classes will only resume once the heat index is below 40 degrees Celsius

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Benitez also declared the suspension of classes from pre-school to senior high school due to extreme heat temperature.

Benitez has also enthused schools to adopt alternative modes of learning.

He, however, said private schools with air-conditioned rooms and tertiary-level institutions may exercise their discretion to continue with face-to-face classes.

DepEd-6 revealed that the cancellation in Bacolod City affected 70 public schools with 117,540 learners.

At least 10 localities in Negros Occidental have also suspended their classes.

These are in EB Magalona, Silay City (all levels both public and private; Kabankalan City; Kabankalan City; Himamaylan City (all levels both public and private); Hinobaan (all levels both public and private); Isabela (all levels both public and private); Binalbagan (all levels both public and private); Candoni (all levels both public and private); Cauayan (all levels both public and private); and Bago City.

As of 4 p.m. of April 1, DepEd-6 said they only received reports from their division heads in Silay City (39 schools with 29,503 learners); Kabankalan City (91 schools with 51,990 learners); Himamaylan City (62 schools with 31,114 learners); and Bago City (47 schools with 37,444 learners).

Escullar said that schools are ready for the shift from in-person classes to modular learning.

“This weather forecast has been released in early March. So, we have somehow prepared our schools for this. The division schools are also there to provide assistance when needed,” he said.

Escullar said the number of school days won’t be affected since modular learning is also counted in the school days.

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