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Rising Temperatures: Impact of Intense Heat on Classroom Disruptions

MANILA, Philippines — Education authorities reported that numerous schools across the nation, with dozens concentrated in the national capital region, have either halted classes or shifted to online learning due to the severe heat caused by the El Niño phenomenon.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has been monitoring the heat index, also known as the “human discomfort index,” in different areas of the country since the Holy Week break. This monitoring became necessary as the heat index started to climb to levels classified as “extreme caution” to “dangerous.”

The heat index classification by the weather bureau ranges from 27 degrees Celsius to 32ºC (caution), 33ºC to 41ºC (extreme caution), 42ºC to 51ºC (danger), and 52ºC and above (extreme danger).

Since the Lenten break, Pagasa has observed a heat index of 41ºC to 44ºC in several regions including Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Western Visayas, and Soccsksargen. In response to this intense heat, authorities in Metro Manila took decisive action by ordering the closure of primary and secondary schools in Quezon City. Meanwhile, schools in other affected areas were given the option by local officials to transition to remote learning methods.

Acting Governor Vice Gov. Raden Sakaluran, in Executive Order No. 70, stated, “Alternative methods of teaching and learning will be implemented to guarantee the continuity of education during the suspension of face-to-face classes.”

Several schools in Manila’s capital have opted to reduce class hours to steer clear of the hottest periods of the day.

“To ensure uninterrupted education,” the provincial government of Sultan Kudarat in Soccsksargen declared the suspension of all in-person classes across public and private schools until April 15, as announced on Monday.

General Santos City Mayor Lorelie Pacquiao has announced a three-day suspension of classes, extending up to Friday, and has urged schools to adopt alternative teaching methods temporarily. Additionally, in southern Mindanao, hundreds of schools have adjusted their schedules to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

In Albay province, several mayors have advised schools to balance between in-person and online classes. Camalig Mayor Carlos Irwin Baldo Jr. and Polangui Mayor Raymond Adrian Salceda suggested morning in-person classes followed by other teaching modes in the afternoons. Meanwhile, Mayors Paul Garcia and Wilfredo Maronilla of Guinobatan and Libon respectively have directed both public and private schools to transition to modular or online learning.

Similarly, in Olongapo City, St. Joseph College’s Basic Education Department will limit in-person classes to mornings starting Wednesday, with afternoon sessions shifting to blended learning modes. However, faculty members are required to be physically present regardless of the class format, according to Fr. Raymann Catindig, the school president.

Given the heat index reaching 39ºC on Tuesday and expected to hit 40ºC on Wednesday, Education Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas reminded that schools have the authority, under DepEd’s Department Order No. 37, to modify class operations due to extreme weather conditions.

Senators have also emphasized the need for schools to prioritize student safety. Senator Jinggoy Estrada noted that schools and local governments can switch back to blended or distance learning amidst the intense heat. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, echoed this sentiment, urging school principals to prioritize student safety above all else.

Furthermore, Senator Grace Poe urged water providers like Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. to collaborate with government bodies to ensure uninterrupted water supply, particularly crucial during hot weather spells.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) emphasized the importance of proper classroom ventilation while cautioning against the hazards of overused appliances, citing a recent fire incident at Cebu City’s Abellana National High School caused by an overheated wall fan.

“Even electric fans can overheat, adding to the challenges faced by teachers and students due to classroom shortages and inadequate ventilation,” he remarked. This statement was supported by reports from AFP, Edwin O. Fernandez, Ma. April Mier-Manjares, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Kezia Shane Reyes, Joanna Rose Aglibot, Marlon Ramos, and Dempsey Reyes.

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