Big changes for students, parents, and teachers come August 11, the proposed start of public schools

From left, education board members Mark Mendiola, Dr. Ron McNinch, John Burch, and chairwoman Maria Gutierrez. Opposite the podium are DOE superintendent Jon Fernandez, and administrators Nadine Cepeda and Erika Cruz.

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tiyan, Guam) Public school students whose parents choose to send them to a school campus will see only a third of their classmates in the upcoming school year, and they’ll have to sit six feet apart from each other. When they come to school, staff will check their temperature. If they get sick in the middle of the school day, they will be held in an isolation room until they’re picked up. They’ll need to wear masks, and if either they or any person in their household is feeling sick, will not be allowed to go to their school campus.

And, uniforms will be optional.

“There are a lot fo families out there who are already stressed,” education board chairwoman Maria Gutierrez began, in her explanation on the board’s vote to suspend the mandatory uniform policy. “They’re out of work, their hours were reduced, they’re struggling to put food on the table. I don’t want to put that stress on the family. That’s why this is optional.”

Uniform seller tried to pressure board to mandate parents to buy his uniforms

Ms. Gutierrez confirmed that Bic Sobti, the owner of uniform seller International Royals/Bics and who was lurking outside the board meeting, had tried to pressure the board to keep the mandatory uniform policy.

“If any of the uniform vendors want to donate, then by all means,” Ms. Gutierrez said. “What is more important for the parents that have little money is to buy food than to worry about buying uniforms.”

Traditional school: 6 school days per month; 3 groups; 1 support services day

Students whose parents choose for them to have a traditional face-to-face school experience in the upcoming school year will be grouped into three groups - A, B, and C - based on an alphabetical order. The groups of students will rotate school days from Monday through Thursday, with every Friday (that isn’t a holiday) dedicated to support services (learning interventions among teachers and students, interactions with parents, etc.). For example, if student group A will go to school on Monday, B will go to school on Tuesday, C on Wednesday, A on Thursday, and the support day on Friday. Group B would start the following Monday in this example.

“We’re targeting August 11 as the start date,” Department of Education superintendent Jon Fernandez said. “A lot of training needs to take place before we can welcome students back to school.”

Conceivably, each student group would physically be in school only six times a month, barring holidays.

“The days students aren’t in school shouldn’t be considered as days off,” Mr. Fernandez said. He and his deputy superintendent for curriculum, Joe Sanchez, discussed an emphasis on assignments that would stem from each day the group is in school.

But students won’t have to go to school and learn from classrooms.

Home schooling options

Parents will have the option of 100 percent home schooling, through an online curriculum. Parents also will have the option of 100 percent home schooling, through hard copy curriculum.

For the online home schooling option, families will need to have computer and online access.

For the hard copy curriculum, families will need to pick up the learning materials and turn in student assignments.

Internet access and computers

The Department of Education will provide the technology and hard copy support for the home schooling options. DOE also will provide community learning centers and community hot spots of internet coverage in the villages.

“There will be a heavy emphasis on exposing them to technology, and providing these units to them,” Mr. Sanchez said.

Schools will be community learning centers in the afternoon and evening hours and on weekends, open to students to provide computer and internet access.

Some mayors have signed up for wifi signals in their villages to provide community learning centers and online access, according to Mr. Sanchez.

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