An elementary school in Mulanay, Quezon Province is currently holding classes in an unused cockfighting arena. Aristotle Aguirre, the mayor of the town, explained that San Isidro Elementary School, which was built in 1978, had been ravaged by typhoons, landslides, and earthquakes, with cracks in the classroom walls and broken ceilings. Deemed unsafe, the school property was closed down by the local government in 2020.
The closure did not immediately affect students as classes were held online in a virtual learning mode due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that in-person classes have resumed, the decision was made to move classes to Decena Sports Arena, a cockpit. Agnes Par, one of the school’s teachers, stated that when the government declared the resumption of in-person classes, school personnel sought the help of village officials to find a solution to their problem.
“Our original intention is to hold classes at the barangay hall. But our barangay captain offered the [empty] Decena Sports Arena,” Par said.
San Isidro barangay captain Arnulfo Decena, whose family owned the cockfighting facility, stated, “I pity the children. I did not hesitate and allowed the DepEd to use the arena as a temporary place for students when they return to face-to-face schooling.”
The Decena Sports Arena has been closed for nearly six years due to a case in court filed by another cockpit operator in the area. “We only operated for four days after the opening. Then the court ordered us to stop,” the barangay captain said. The other cockpit arena in the area also ceased operations in 2013, and since then, the town has had no operational cockpit.
San Isidro Elementary has 252 students, with the arena currently serving as a temporary classroom for students in Grades 1 to 6. Classes for the Grade 3 students are being held at the nearby village hall. The students have assigned areas in the circular arena, while the central cockpit serves both as a teaching space and a workstation for the teachers.
The entrance of the cockpit was turned into a triage area where teachers and pupils pass through a thermal scanner before entering. There is also an isolation area set up on-site for individuals who show symptoms.