Back to school for 26M students

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MORE than 26 million public and private elementary and high school students nationwide will return to school on Monday, June 5, for the opening of academic year 2017-2018.

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Of the 26.9 million students, 2.8 million are in senior high school (both grade 11 and 12), while the remaining 24.1 million are Kindergarten to Grade 10 learners, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said over the weekend.

Of that number, 22.8 million are in public schools while the remaining four million are in private schools.

“We are anticipating 26 million to 27 million students in both private and public schools, for this school year. But you can be sure that the Marawi episode will impact on these numbers,” Briones told reporters in a news briefing on Thursday last week.

Though the DepEd is generally ready for the school opening, Briones admitted that they still expect shortages in classrooms, particularly in the densely populated Metro Manila area.

“We cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that everything would be okay, we are already saying that generally, we are ready but there will be certain schools that would be left behind. We are ready but we cannot avoid that there are still shortages. When we came in last June, we had a shortage of 66,000 classrooms, so now we are working on addressing this,” she said.

“We cannot deny that everything would be perfect because in the National Capital Region (NCR) there are schools that still offer two shifts. The NCR lacks learning spaces because there is no more space to build new school buildings,” she added.

DepEd-NCR Director Ponciano Menguito said that while some schools offer two shifts, most of them are already implementing the single shift.

“For elementary, in fact, almost one-fourth of our schools in the National Capital Region are on single shift, meaning classes start from 7 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. But in some cases there is a need to augment the classroom for the simple reason that we really lack buildable space. Around one-third of our schools are implementing the double shifts or morning and afternoon classes,” Menguito said.

“Just last week I met all the superintendents and they reported to us what they are doing and I would say with certainty that things would be normal come Monday. They [teachers]have already conducted a dry run where our learners were asked to report, but they [students]already know their classrooms so by Monday they would go directly to their designated classrooms for the regular classes,” he added.

The education department has reactivated its Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE) centers nationwide to ensure the smooth opening of classes.

The OBE aims to address commonly encountered problems such as the transfer of students from private schools to public schools, classroom assignment, power and water supply, peace and order and senior high school voucher program.

The OBE Information and Action Center, which has been set up at the DepEd central office’s Bulwagan ng Karunungan in Pasig City, will serve as the information and complaints processing and routing zone for the duration of the project.

The OBE Inter-Agency Task Force is composed of the Departments of Energy, Interior and Local Government, Health, Defense, Public Works and Highways, Social Welfare and Development, Trade and Industry, Manila Electric Company, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, Metro Manila Development Authority, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, and the Philippine National Police.

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