PALO, Leyte- Jay Dapitan, 17, could only say “thank you” to the volunteers who trooped to his school in Palo, Leyte for a week-long school maintenance activities dubbed as “Brigada Eskwela” which ended on Friday.

“We are thankful to the school for partnering with us. Our job is not only to protect but also help children to have clean and ready place for learning,” said Sgt. July Ortega of the Civil Military Operation group in the region.

Ortega along with other army personnel joined the parents and other community stakeholders in cleaning and restoring the facilities in Palo National High School, the biggest school in the town, which also suffered the brunt of super typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.

The maintenance activities included repainting some buildings, weeding out the grass, repairing broken doors and windows, and replacing worn-out learning materials.

Volunteers not only gave their time and efforts, but also donated construction materials and even refreshment during the event.

“We appreciate the contribution of everyone in ensuring that the school will be ready for the June 1 opening of classes. Aside from that, I am asking everyone to not only be physically prepared but also morally clean,” said Pastor Gamaliel Aliposa, president of the Parent-Teacher Association of the school.

Socorro Ausa, the school principal, also urged the parents and volunteers present during the activities to continue assisting the school throughout the year.

According to Ausa, rehabilitation in the school after typhoon Yolanda is about 80 percent now.

“Like the mythological Phoenix, Palo National High School is rising, slowly back on its feet after it was leveled by Yolanda. I know we can do it,” Ausa earlier said.

“Construction of new buildings is ongoing and we were told that more are still to come,” she added.

Estimated cost of damages caused by Yolanda to the school was placed at PhP 30 million.

“As the school’s population is growing, our assistance also continues to pour in,” said Ausa.

From 26 transition classrooms turned over by the Red Cross Society of China in cooperation with the Philippine Red Cross in January 2014, the school also received six new comfort rooms and drinking water facility from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), along with the rehabilitation of 31 classrooms by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Leyte provincial government.

One Meralco Foundation donated two classrooms, while Metrobank Foundation Inc. and PAGCOR are having ongoing classroom construction projects.

Last February, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation turned over a new school gymnasium.

Japanese firm Nippon Steel and Sumikin Engineering earlier donated typhoon-proof classroom which will be turned into computer laboratory.

“Another good news in Palo National High School is that we have finally designated our actual area, boundary and perimeter. Our development plan is already approved,” said Fidelino Josol, faculty president and lot administrator.

“We are having its revision since one of our challenges here is the type of land we have which is swampy. Our donors wanted to build classrooms on back-filled area. Our back-up measure is to retain the donors, so we have negotiated with the Palo I Central Elementary School, upon the advice of the schools division superintendent, to allow us to use one-third of their lot through a deed of usufruct for 25 years. Anyhow we have been using the lot virtually since the school started its operation in 1993,” Josol said.

He added the school will receive a two-storey building with 10 classrooms from the United States Agency for International Development soon because of this development.

Aside from classroom building assistance, the school also received various school equipment from both local and international aid groups immediately after the typhoon.

These notably include a new set of band instruments Japanese famous musician Kazutoki Umezu and film-maker Koji Imaizumi; office computer, laptops and school equipment from the financial help by a Mormon couple.

Humanitarian organizations like Save the Children, UNICEF, and People’s Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (Preda) distributed hygiene kits, tents, protective gears, bags, school supplies and learning modules to the school, aside from providing workshops on stress debriefing and child rights for both teachers and students.

Known for being the pilot school in the implementation of Department of Education’s K to 12 curriculum whose students successfully passed the National Certificate exam from TESDA for NC II in ICT and tourism, Palo National High School is also the only school in Eastern Visayas which is piloting Special Program for Journalism (SPJ) and Special Program for Sports (SPJ).

It also dominated in various sports and academic competitions.

Ernani Fernandez, Information and Communication Technology coordinator in the school, won in a Global Forum of expert educators sponsored by Microsoft in Barcelona, Spain last March 2014, while student Rachelle Llones was chosen as one of this year’s Kabayan-Ten Outstanding Public Schools Students awardees in the country.

Noting the rehabilitation in Palo National High School, Leyte division superintendent Ronelo Al Firmo has assured that the rest of Leyte schools are ready for June 1 opening of classes in spite of the ongoing recovery.

Firmo said they are already 90 percent complete in their rehabilitation, adding they have received additional PhP 80 million for the building construction.

Around 900 schools were affected by typhoon Yolanda in Leyte, the biggest schools division in the country with over 300,000 enrolees.

According to Firmo, they have received new funding from the national government for the repair and construction of buildings, while humanitarian groups also continue their support.

“We can assure that on June 1 we have no more classes in tents,” Firmo said. PNA

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