A teacher of Potter's Place School prepares modules in her classroom. || Image courtesy of Andrew Gawidan.


A private school in El Nido is a step ahead of many educational institutions and has dug its heels implementing distance learning as a method of education under the “new normal” environment.

Palawan News spoke to the school administrators and learned that it truly takes a community to raise a child.

The tourist town of El Nido has remained quiet and sleepy since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, without the usual throng of tourists. Reactivating the local economy has been slow without tourism, and many businesses remain shut, patiently waiting out the pandemic.

Schools have remained close since mid-March after the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) called for class suspensions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Potter’s Place School, a private institution founded in 2000, was not spared from the months-long class suspensions. After the previous school year was cut short, the question remained on how the next school year would continue in a new context.


Schooling amidst a pandemic

Palawan News spoke to school principal Jodenny Piodena on July 25 to find out how the institution is opening its new school year amidst the pandemic. An online class dry run was conducted on July 22, and the classes formally began on July 27.

Piodena said that prior to the school’s opening, a few challenges came about; mainly, a significant drop in enrollment and the departure of some of the teachers at the end of the previous school year.

“To open the school is a challenge in itself for everyone, but especially for the teachers. We voluntarily decided to open despite the loss of enrollees which affected the school financially. Then, as an added consequence, we could not afford to hire new teachers,” said Piodena.

“The bulk of the work is now left with the teachers who decided to remain. We are a non-profit school so we do not have a lot of equipment, like photocopiers and printers; we maximize the use of what we have,” she added.

The school deferred to hold face-to-face classes to ensure the safety of its students and faculty.

“The safety of the whole Potter’s community is our first priority. We cannot afford to have anyone get sick with the virus,” said Piodena.


A student completes her modules while interacting with classmates online. || Image courtesy of Andrew Gawidan.


Distance learning: online and modular

The school now uses both online learning and answering of modules. Plenty of preparation and research was done as early as May to determine the best modes of learning for its students.

“Before we started the school year, we had class trials and we found out that not all students could access the Internet, so we produced modules for them which they could pick up from school every Friday,” said Piodena.

It is not a requirement to join the online classes. Rather, online classes are supplementary to the modules. Parents are also encouraged to assist in answering these modules, while online classes are used to simulate a classroom environment.

“For now, since we are in transition, and since we’re trying to balance being able to give equal opportunities for the students who don’t have the capacity to avail themselves of the necessary equipment for online learning, we consider that mode supplemental,” said Andrew Gawidan, Information Technology (IT) director and teacher.

“’Yong modules po namin are designed to be stand-alone and are sufficient for the parents and learners to be able to use at home. But for those who can, we also try to maximize the opportunities of learning that we can give to them through the online platforms. Nagpo-provide po kami ng online class schedule for each subject to simulate yung regular classroom set-up, kung saan nakakapag-interact ‘yong students with their teacher as well as with their classmates,” he added.


Parents as support system

Piodena said that parents have been crucial to the new schooling set-up, and have so far been supportive.

“The whole Potter’s community is adjusting to distance learning. But it is so encouraging amidst the pandemic to see the cooperation of the parents in learning and involving themselves with our online offerings. Parents are very supportive, and our students are excited to use the learning apps,” said Piodena.

“Potter’s Place School has remained dedicated to serve out of love and commitment to the El Nido community for twenty years already, and we will continue that legacy, whatever challenges may come,” she added.

(With reports from Patricia Laririt)