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Suspending Classes in Adverse Weather

Whoever can develop a fail-safe system for the announcement of the suspension of classes during adverse weather has to be immediately declared National Hero. The weather system overnight was a mere LPA not even given a real name but for the code 96W.

Although nowhere near as destructive as the infamous Ondoy, the LPA nonetheless poured significant amounts of rain as it crossed the country from the Western Pacific today. You would think that since we all live along typhoon alley that we would have figured out solutions to weather-related concerns a long time ago.

But no; tonight’s evening news had the usual stories that we get to see every rainy season – floods, heavy traffic and the seemingly unsolvable problem of how to announce the suspension of classes before students actually leave for school.

I understand from Malacañang spokesperson Abigail Valte that since there were no storm signals today, the decision to declare the suspension of classes rested in the hands of the local government units. DILG’s Jesse Robledo was also shown being interviewed; and he said that some LGU’s actually leave it to the barangay captains to make the decision.

I thought this was curious until it was explained that sometimes school principals do not live in the community where their schools are located. That made sense. Yet, will it not also seem strange if the principal, of all people, arrives in school to find that classes have been suspended?

The announcement to suspend classes, I also learned from tonight’s news, has to be made before 4:30 in the morning. How do you disseminate such information to all students inside an hour and a half assuming that most students leave their homes at six in the morning?

I was thinking of a siren system such as what they use to alert residents of impending tornadoes in the United States; but, perhaps, such a system is only viable in small communities. In Metro Manila, for instance, it is not unusual for somebody who lives in Quezon City to go to school in the City of Manila.

We used to effectively use social media and text messaging in the school where I used to work; but it will be foolhardy to assume that children of indigents will have cellular phones or access to the Internet at home.

It is not an easy problem to solve, believe me!

Government, it must be said, must be commended for upgrading weather-prediction equipment and for utilizing technology to disseminate information. That said, PAGASA’s weather bulletins on its web site are cryptic at best; and while the agency is on Twitter, how many indigent students are?

It was suggested in tonight’s news that ultimately students themselves – or their parents – can exercise discretion during adverse conditions without having to wait for official announcements. Once again, this makes sense.

Yet, time and again, students brave winds, rains and even floods to get to school only to find upon getting there that classes are suspended. This used to happen when I was a student; it used to happen when I worked in a school; and continues to happen even in the present.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the answer is not in the LGU’s nor the government agencies but in the schools themselves. Students go to school despite adverse weather because they are either wary of disciplinary sanctions or are afraid of having to catch up on any academic work missed.

It is a touchy issue at best because to relax disciplinary and academic policies can also lead to truancy. Like I said, whoever finds the solution to the dilemma has got to be proclaimed National Hero like pronto!

Perhaps, at the end of the day, it all boils down to each student exercising common sense. Whatever academic gains one thinks one can get from heroic efforts to get to school in adverse weather will ultimately be rendered useless if one gets killed trying to get to school.

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