QUICK INTERVENTIONS. Education spokesperson Michael Poa joins the Palace briefing on Tuesday (August 2, 2022). Poa discussed the initial plans of the Department of Education, following their Monday meeting, to ensure class reopening through quick interventions in areas affected by the July 27 magnitude 7 earthquake in Abra and other areas in northern Luzon. (Screengrab)

MANILA – The reopening of classes in quake-hit areas on August 22 will still push through, using several quick interventions, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Tuesday.

In a Palace briefing, DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said they will have to resort to using makeshift learning spaces, which may only take at least three days to build.

“What we are looking at now, is, from the Department of Education side, is quick intervention. We are looking into building our temporary learning spaces, these are spaces made out of light material, but these will be roofed, so our learners will be safe,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

Besides temporary learning spaces, Poa said they might also consider locally-available areas.

“We are also looking on available spaces. So we are coordinating with [local government units], the barangays, kung mayroon pong mahahanap na lugar na hindi naman po nagagamit, sa ngayon baka pwedeng gamitin ng ating learners (if there are areas unused, so now, these may be used by our learners),” he added.

Earlier, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte said the DepEd needs at least PHP1.4 billion for the Luzon quake-affected schools.

“The province of Abra and other areas of Northern Luzon was jolted by a powerful earthquake that affected more than 9,000 schools. The assessment conducted by the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service showed that the government would need PHP1.4 billion for the repair of 451 classrooms destroyed by the earthquake and the other 706 classrooms that sustained damage,” she said in her Brigada Eskwela speech.

This figure is still excluded from the amount needed for the reconstruction of schools previously affected by typhoons Odette and Agataon, which Poa said to reach up to PHP16 billion.

“We have already asked for PHP16 billion from the Department of Budget and Management, but again, the numbers keep on growing pa rin po, so that’s why the Vice President and Secretary of Education said that we are in a sort of quicksand,” he said.

Poa noted that even though the reconstruction of schools may take time, the education sector is determined to pursue the class reopening on August 22.

High enrollment turnout

Considering some learners have not had the opportunity to catch up or even access remote learning for the past two years, Poa said the DepEd is now recording a significantly high enrollment turnout.

As of Tuesday at 7 a.m., the DepEd has recorded 13,152,065 enrollees nationwide, which is higher than the same day of the previous year.

“As to the turnout, nung first day pa lang po, napansin na natin na this was significantly higher, because nung first day pa lang ng enrollment, nakapagtala po tayo ng 3.3-million, as compared to last year’s first day enrollment na nasa 222,000 lang po (since the first day, we have noticed that this was significantly higher where we have recorded 3.3-million, compared to last year’s first day of enrollment only reaching 222,000). So it does appear from the trend that our learners are excited to go back to in-person classes na po,” he said.

The DepEd earlier said it would achieve the targeted 28.6 million enrollees for the upcoming school year.

Poa, meanwhile, assured that they will remain non-discriminatory to all learners, teaching, and non-teaching personnel, especially when it comes to vaccination and availing of booster shots.

“Wala pong separate guidelines for those vaccinated and unvaccinated, so voluntary po ang pananaw pa rin natin sa vaccination (There are no separate guidelines for those vaccinated and unvaccinated, still, our perspective is that vaccination remains voluntary),” he said.

However, the DepEd will continue to closely coordinate with the Health Department to ensure regular counseling, which once successful, would open for mobile vaccinations in schools. (PNA)