Until today, it was the Department of Education (DepEd) that issued suspension of classes in the wake of a storm or typhoon. Not anymore.
“Beginning today and in succeeding typhoons, the DepEd will not anymore officially suspend classes,” Luistro told a National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council command conference Monday morning.
“As soon as typhoon signals are raised by Pagasa, this will automatically suspend classes in pre-school and kinder. We will not come out anymore with an announcement, this should be automatic,” he said.
According to protocol, classes in kindergarten and pre-schools are suspended if public storm signal No. 1 is raised in their areas.
In areas where storm signal No.2 is raised, classes in elementary and high schools are suspended.
Once storm signal No. 3 is raised, classes in all levels including college are suspended [PDI].
At first glance, it might sound like the perfect solution. No more waiting for DepEd announcements which, in the past, almost always came late and classes didn’t get suspended until children were already in school. If everyone just relies on PAG-ASA’s storm signal warnings, everything’s less confusing.
Storm warning signals are based on the wind strength of a storm or typhoon. And wind strength is NOT an indicator of how much rains will get dumped in areas on the storm’s path. And that’s really the biggest problem in Metro Manila — a little rain cause cause terrible flash floods and getting stranded is probably the least terrible consequence. So, I need to ask: Are storm signal warnings — wind strength of a storm or typhoon — a good basis as to whether or not classes should be suspended? Is this system SAFER for OUR CHILDREN?
Put another way, is the DepEd merely washing its hands off the responsibility? Saving its ass so it wouldn’t be blamed in the future? Just dump the entire responsibility on PAG-ASA. If little tykes get swept by raging floods because PAG-ASA hoisted storm signal #1, then, it’ll be PAG-ASA’s sorry ass, not the DepEd’s. Consider what happened last year. When Ondoy hit last year, storm signal #1 was up — yes, the lowest of all storm signals — and look what happened to Metro Manila. And if it had happened on a school day instead of a Saturday, can you imagine how many school children could have died? Whose sorry ass would have gotten whacked, you think?
I’ve never been happy with the way that the DepEd handled suspension of classes in the past. It always seemed to me that the DepEd officials didn’t wake up until midday and that was why announcements of class suspension were always late — so late that they always came after the children had left for school. But past ineptitude does not justify this total washing of hands.
There still ought to be a HUMAN BEING who can decide that, whatever the storm signal number is, and even when no storm signal has been hoisted, classes should be suspended because of the ACTUAL PREVAILING SITUATION. I think that the local government units (LGUs) are in the best position to physically assess the actual prevailing situation and judge whether classes ought to be suspended, irrespective of PAG-ASA’s storm warning signal or its absence. A MANUAL OVERRIDE, as it were.
The question, of course, is whether the LGUs can act fast enough and not copy DepEd’s style of late announcements. In the case of Typhoon Juan, the local governments of Antipolo and Marikina were the first to suspend classes on all levels. Not surprising since these two cities were among the hardest hit by Ondoy last year. I guess the local officials are still reeling from the trauma. If all announcements can come in a timely manner, then sure, let’s get rid of DepEd’s participation in the class suspension drama whenever there’s a storm or typhoon. It rarely rose to the occasion in the past anyway. Good riddance.