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Announcing the Suspension of Classes

I am tempted to complain about all that rain that just fell and fell from late the other night to – at least where I live – last night. But that will only be petty… It is, after all, the rainy season.

This morning, the skies were still overcast when I woke up; and if there was rain, it was mostly innocuous. I had taken a peek at the satellite photo PAGASA conveniently makes available at its web site last night; so I knew that the pesky low pressure area had begun to move away.

I am a man of routines and habits and among my daily rituals is to check Twitter for any late breakers from the news networks. As it happened, it was GMA News which was flooding Twitter’s main column with announcements that, according to Dep Ed, classes were suspended in this place but not suspended there… And so on…

A quick glance up at the wall clock showed it was 7:44 in the morning – way past the time when the announcements would have been worth anything. I mean, it is typical – in any school – for the kids to start streaming in as early as six in the morning; and sometimes even earlier.

I suppose that was thoughtful of the network, notwithstanding the fact that it was also in the news just the other day that only six of a hundred Pinoy students have ever been to the Internet. I just wonder how many of the public elementary and high school students of the cities and municipalities concerned would have seen the tweets.

Things are a little different in private schools; and I say this completely without snobbery. It is just the way things are. By the way, classes in private schools do not open until next week.

Suspending classes on account of the weather has for the longest time been a touchy and iffy business. Anyone who is reading this will be able to cite an experience or two of braving the rains to go to school only to find a crude sign on the main gate that simply said NO CLASSES TODAY.

The suspension of classes has not always meant that the adverse weather would continue. We all have stories of classes having been suspended only for the sun to come out blazing brightly as early as ten in the morning. And then we all go to the malls to waste our baon away…

Opposite to this, how about the times we were all told to go to our classrooms and be reassured that the weather would be fine; only for the heavens to open up and rain cats, dogs, rhinos and hippopotami?

In a perfect world, decisions about the suspension of classes on account of the weather ought to be made the day before – and then widely disseminated with whatever means available. But who knows how a weather system will behave? The regrettable truth is that – in this day and age – even Scientists are still being led in a merry dance by the weather.

When I was still working in upper school administration, my colleagues and I developed something of a system regarding the suspension of classes. I am something of an amateur weather man – at ‘di hamak na mas pogi naman ako kay Kuya Kim – so I would advise my boss, Sonny Lozano, about any impending weather systems.

Sometimes, decisions were easy to make – such as when a system was particularly powerful, kept a steady track, moved along at a steady and predictable pace and had winds and rains that were obviously not to be ignored. When facing systems like this, decisions were made as early as the day before a system was due to hit.

There were, however, those systems that moved erratically and made decision-making difficult. Note that all schools are obligated to meet a number of school days by both the Dep Ed and the Commission on Higher Education. The suspension of classes could not be based on a whim.

For systems of this sort, sometimes I would get a call or text message from Lozano as early as five in the morning. The moment a decision was made to suspend classes, however, that was when the “fun” started.

First, it was important to bring in Cora Abansi, who was in charge of the academic sector. The two of us would text all who mattered among phone contacts and that would – naturally – trigger a chain reaction of text messages.

It also helped that – even in those days – ours was fortunately one of those schools that had a fairly extensive Facebook penetration. So, all I would do was type something like this as my status: CLASSES AT ALL LEVELS SUSPENDED TOMORROW.

And thanks to cut and paste technology, that little announcement would take on a life of its own, passed on from one Facebook profile to another…

Was it effective? May paisa-isa pa rin… But nothing like the old days when there would be hundreds of students looking stupidly under their umbrellas at the sign by the main gate…

Just how effective that system was one of my players showed me one afternoon after training when I happened to wonder how effective the text-cum-Facebook system was. The lad promptly took out his cell phone, clicked to scroll to this particular message which he showed me. It read: “According to Mr. Torrecampo via FB, no classes today!”

I laughed. Apparently, it was a group message sent to him by one of his classmates who did not know that he had received a message about the suspension from me already.

Well and good as long as the system was not erratic. But who can really tell what the weather will do next…???

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