Why DepEd declares “Health Break” and Actually Suspends Classes

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Written by: Maine Dela Cruz

Not long after the Philippines’ education institutions announced the resumption of face-to-face classes at all levels, the Department of Education (DepEd) National Capital Region (NCR) has declared a health break throughout Metro Manila from January 15 to January 22.

As uncertainties arise from the surging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the country, it’s best to keep ourselves ready. This includes the possibility of online classes remaining and the resumption of the work-from-home setup. Nowadays, a fiber internet subscription has become more important than ever.

What do health breaks mean, and what happens during their implementation? Read on to learn more.

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What does health break mean?

DepEd Calabarzon refers to health break refers as class suspension that includes all other school activities. This is whether face-to-face or online, that involve school-based personnel, students, and parents.

The agency made the announcement through a memorandum posted on its Facebook page on Thursday, January 13, referring to a memorandum released the same day. According to the memo, DepEd allowed its regional offices and school division offices to suspend classes in January. This is “based on their reliable assessment of the health status of their teachers and learners and the IATF risk classification.”

The class suspension will cover online and physical classes at all levels. And it also covers other teaching-related activities in all private and public schools in the city.

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Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

Importance of health breaks

According to a recent poll conducted by TimelyMD, an overwhelming majority (85 percent) of college students claim that they are still experiencing heightened stress and/or anxiety as a result of COVID-19. Women reported greater rates of coronavirus-related stress than males (93 percent vs. 78 percent ). Despite this rise in stress and anxiety, only 21% of students questioned indicated that they sought emotional help from a certified counselor or mental health professional in person or via telemedicine.

While students’ brains may be free of academic pressures, emotional, social, and financial concerns — as well as a general sense of anxiety and insecurity — remain ubiquitous as a result of these acute and chronic stresses. Many people lament the loss of loved ones and fear for their own safety. Many are distraught by lost employment or internships and are still feeling the effects of social isolation.

The term “school mental health” is typically used to discuss the mental health and wellness of students. However, it also includes promoting the well-being of school-based educators, administrators, and mental health workers.

Why did DepEd declare the suspension of classes?

DepEd suspends classes - health break - streamtech fiber internet
Photo by Muneer ahmed ok on Unsplash

In a memorandum addressed to the schools’ division superintendents of NCR, DepEd said classes shall be suspended starting January 15. According to DepEd Calabarzon, the academic break aims to “ease the health burden caused by the surge of COVID-19 cases to the physical and mental well-being of the school personnel and learners.”

In a statement, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said the department’s move is a recognition of their call for a two-week academic break.

What happens during and after the academic break?

Will the academic setup be ever the same after the academic break? How will the current health situation of the country affect the learning modalities? Here’s what we know so far:

1. Duration

The suspension period is not to exceed two weeks in order to avoid a prolonged disruption in the current school calendar.

2. Private schools

According to DepEd, private schools “may exercise their own discretion relative to the suspended classes and K to 12 learning activities when COVID-19 risks in their respective areas are high.” Meanwhile, prior to this announcement, several schools have already declared a “health break” beginning January 10, postponing classes and submission of requirements.

3. Public schools

DepEd has instructed its local offices to “exercise discretion” in suspending classes and other teaching-related activities.

4. No online classes but learning materials published online

Once classes resume, the conduct will be “on purely asynchronous distance learning modalities.” This means no online classes would be conducted but teachers would post online learning materials and activities that students need to accomplish.

5. Resumption of classes

While the suspension of classes runs from January 15 to 22, classes in NCR are to resume on January 24 to January 29, since January 22 falls on a weekend.

6. Mid-year break

DepEd said the mid-year break scheduled on January 31 to February 5 shall be utilized by the learners to comply with backlogs in learning outputs while teachers are expected to attend to their usual activities including in-service training and other learning-related undertakings.

7. Reporting of teachers

According to the DepEd Calabarzon, physical reporting of teachers will be not required by the school heads for the duration of the class suspensions.

8. Examinations and accomplishment of requirements

Further, DepEd said the second quarter examinations shall be on February 7 to 8 while the schedule of submission of learning outputs by the students is on February 7 to 12 using online platforms and other mechanisms.

9. No nationwide health breaks

After allowing its local officials to decide whether or not classes will be suspended in their respective areas, the Department of Education (DepEd) on January 14, maintained that it will not declare a nationwide academic or health break.

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