RETURN TO REMOTE LEARNING Sylvia Aquino, teacher of the Alternative Learning System and series
Counselor 4 checks school supplies at Pinyahan Elementary School in Quezon City on Tuesday, April 2
as the city hall recommends the suspension, from that day onwards, of face-to-face classes
and return to alternative modes of learning. CHILD JESUS ​​ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines – Education officials said hundreds of schools in the country, including dozens in the National Capital Region, have suspended classes or adapted them to online learning amid intense heat attributed to the El Niño phenomenon.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has been forecasting the heat index, or what it calls the “human discomfort index,” in various parts of the country since the Holy Week holidays, after the indicator began to reach “extreme caution” for “danger” levels.

READ: Pagasa: Metro Manila, 15 other areas to have 'danger level' heat index

READ: Easter Sunday heat index will reach 42°C-44°C in 8 areas

The meteorological agency's classification for the heat index is as follows: 27 degrees Celsius to 32ºC (caution); 33ºC to 41ºC (extreme caution); 42ºC to 51ºC (danger); and 52ºC and beyond (extreme danger).

Since the Lent break, Pagasa has recorded a heat index of 41ºC to 44ºC in Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Western Visayas and Soccsksargen region, among other areas. In Metro Manila, primary and secondary schools in Quezon City were closed, while schools in other areas were given the option by local authorities to switch to remote learning.

Some schools in the capital Manila have reduced class hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.

'To ensure continuity'

On Monday, the provincial government of Sultan Kudarat in Soccsksargen suspended all in-person classes in public and private schools until April 15.

“Alternative modes of learning and teaching may be implemented to ensure continuity of education while in-person classes are suspended,” said Vice Governor Raden Sakaluran in his Executive Order No. 70, which he issued as acting governor.

On Tuesday, General Santos City Mayor Lorelie Pacquiao suspended classes for three days or until Friday. She also asked school authorities to use alternative modes of teaching in the meantime.

Classes at hundreds of schools in other parts of southern Mindanao were shortened to avoid the hottest time of the day.

Albay, Olongapo

In Luzon, some mayors in Albay province advised school officials to adjust between in-person and online classes.

Mayor of Camalig, Carlos Irwin Baldo Jr. and Mayor of Polangui, Raymond Adrian Salceda, said schools can hold face-to-face classes in the morning and switch to other modes for afternoon classes.

Mayors Paul Garcia and Wilfredo Maronilla of Guinobatan and Libon, respectively, directed all public and private schools to switch to modular or online learning.

In Olongapo City, the St. Joseph College Basic Education Department will limit in-person classes to mornings starting Wednesday.

Father Raymann Catindig, president of the school, said that in-person classes in the afternoon will be in blended learning modes. But faculty members are still required to be present at school regardless of class mode, he said.

Authorized by DepEd

The heat index in this city was 39ºC on Tuesday and is expected to reach 40ºC on Wednesday.

Assistant Secretary of Education Francis Bringas said in March that schools are authorized by the Department of Education (DepEd) to make adjustments in the conduct of classes as intense heat may prevail until May.

According to DepEd Department Order No. 37, work and classes in public and private schools may be canceled to “minimize health and safety risks caused by disasters and other natural calamities.”

This authorization should lead schools to return to online classes for now, the senators said.

“Nothing is stopping local government units and school principals from returning to blended or distance learning due to the scorching climate we are experiencing now,” Senator Jinggoy Estrada told reporters.

Ensure water supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate basic education committee, agreed, saying, “We want to remind school principals that if the safety of our students is at risk, they can implement blended learning in schools.”

Senator Grace Poe appealed to Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. to coordinate with the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System and the National Water Resources Board to avoid water outages.

“Water suppliers must guarantee an uninterrupted supply, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said the chairman of the Senate public services committee.

“The heat is intense, water is in high demand, and without it, our health is at risk,” Poe said.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has once again emphasized the need for adequate ventilation in classrooms, while also pointing out the dangers of excessive use of devices.

ACT President Vladimer Quetua cited a recent fire at Abellana National High School in Cebu City caused by an overheated wall fan.

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“It is not impossible for an electric fan to overheat. Teachers and students already suffer from classroom shortages and there is yet another burden of lack of adequate ventilation in our classrooms,” he said. AFP REPORT, EDWIN O. FERNANDEZ, MA. WEDNESDAY TO THURSDAY APRIL, DOLPHIN T. MALLARI JR., KEZIA SHANE KINGS, JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, MARLON RAMOS AND DEMPSEY KINGS INQ