March 3, 2021 – To ensure disaster risk reduction in schools, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones acknowledged the need for reevaluation of building designs before constructing new classrooms to address its shortage in the country.

During the virtual visit of Secretary Briones in DepEd Region 1, she mentioned the importance of looking at details in the building designs. “Perhaps the building designs need to be improved, so that during calamities such as earthquakes and typhoons, the school buildings are much more secure, rather than these past calamities where many of our classrooms were immediately toppled and destroyed,” says Briones, noting that just building these structures should always consider the ability to withstand strong winds, earthquakes and super typhoons.

Secretary Briones said that while there are new school buildings every year, it is not enough to measure efforts on addressing classroom shortages in the country. Proper reevaluation of building design is needed to lessen the yearly destruction of school buildings due to calamities

In addition, Briones said that the reevaluation of school building designs should also consider the need to comply with the new normal guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH).

According to Briones, “We should also consider the DOH guidelines for number of students in a classroom, taking note of size of classroom and distancing for students. We are now having an ongoing conversation on these building requirements.”

Briones also reminds the public that the construction of school buildings is not DepEd’s sole responsibility but is also in collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).


Speeding up classroom construction

In this connection, Undersecretary for Administration Alain Del Pascua suggested the transferring of the implementation of the School Building Program (SBP) from DPWH to DepEd to accelerate the construction of classrooms around the country.

“DepEd has a bigger stake and more concern over these projects, making it the better agency to work out the immediate implementation and completion of school buildings,” Usec. Pascua said.

He further pointed out that DepEd successfully implemented local- and foreign-assisted school building projects in the past through the Principal-led Scheme of School Building Construction.

“The scheme provided a greater sense of project ownership by the school and the community, which strengthened project monitoring, resulting in high integrity and quality completed project,” Pascua said, adding the scheme was cited for “Best Practice Award by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in 2008.

The classroom requirements for 2020 is 242,603 classrooms. This figure accounts for 110,954 classroom shortages, 85,524 replacements of classrooms scheduled for condemnation/demolition, and 46,125 classrooms for the Last Mile Schools.

To address the classroom shortage in the next three years, DepEd proposed to lawmakers to allocate Php 333 billion for 2021, Php 374 billion for 2022, and Php 374 billion for 2023.


Standards and specifications set

Furthermore, DepEd recently issued the Re-Establishment of Minimum Performance Standards and Specifications (MPSS) using the Alternative Construction Materials for School Buildings.

In Department Order No. 006 s. 2021, the MPSS aims to drive the construction of well-designed buildings that considers anthropometrics, ergonomics, thermal comfort, illumination, ventilation, acoustics, and color; and that are compliant with the law.

The Department wants to ensure that school buildings for the succeeding years could withstand wind velocity up to 340 kilometers per hour and could resist 0.4 up to 8.0 magnitude of an earthquake.

The designers, meanwhile, must consider the Sanitary and Plumbing Standards, including the provisions of toilets and sanitary facilities under the Plumbing Code and the Sanitary Code of the Philippines.

The Education Facilities Division (EFD) of the Department, together with the Regional and Division Office, shall be in charge of the monitoring of the construction and the evaluation of the building using the alternative construction materials approved by the Central Office.