/ 1 May 2024

SENATE Committee on Basic Education chairman Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday admitted that suspending in-person classes poses a challenge for local government officials and school heads during the dry season as PAGASA’s heat index data is limited to areas where it has equipment.

“There is a need for a more location-specific heat index that will help LGUs and school heads to anticipate class suspensions, similar to PAGASA’s bulletins for tropical cyclones,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian explained that compared to class suspensions caused by tropical cyclones, it is more challenging to deal with the heat as it is unavoidable and becomes an unpredictable scenario during activities, like walking to school.

During the Senate panel’s hearing, PAGASA Deputy Administrator for Research and Development Marcelino Villafuerte said that it recognizes the limitation of its network of observations, and it is currently developing a system that will estimate the temperature for a particular location without sensors.

“Currently, some of my colleagues in PAGASA are exploring an interactive map where if you can point to a location, you can see what’s being observed at a particular time, and the forecast heat index in the next seven days,” Villafuerte added.

At the same time, Villafuerte explained that both the old and new academic calendars have their advantages and disadvantages.

Citing a 2017 study, Villafuerte said that the old June-March school calendar may be outside the peak of hot weather, but it coincides with periods of extreme rainfall and tropical cyclone-related cancellation of classes.

Villafuerte has also warned the public of even hotter temperatures in May, which will be followed by the La Niña phenomenon.