COVID-19 spike affects schools

GDOE Deputy Superintendent Joe Sanchez, right, told K57's Kate Baltazar-Dodge that August 17th was not a "hard deadline" and was meant to allow the teachers to set up their classes. (PNC file photo)

Because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases over the past week, the Guam Department of Education has delayed face-to-face classes for School Year 2020 to 2021 for two weeks.

The first day of on-campus classes for Guam public schools has been delayed until August 31st because of safety concerns.

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Students who have chosen to learn at home either through hard copy or online lessons will still start classes on Monday, August 17th, according to a statement from the Joint Information Center.

GDOE Deputy Superintendent Joe Sanchez told K57’s Kate Baltazar-Dodge that August 17th was not a “hard deadline” and was meant to allow the teachers to set up their classes.

“We really try to let teachers know that you don’t have to be perfect on that first day or on that first week. The first two weeks of school was really meant…the first week was meant to clarify your class list because on the first two days your online students aren’t at school,” Sanchez said.

Around 62 percent of the island’s 30,000 public school students are registered to learn from home, with about 38 percent set to attend classes face to face on an alternating schedule. GDOE estimates that only 16 percent of total school enrollment would be expected on campus daily, with class sizes expected to average eight students per classroom.

The Guam Education Board this week considered delaying the start of the school year for one week to give teachers more time to prepare, but that motion had been outvoted.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez clarified that his decision to delay the start of face to face classes was based on safety concerns and on the most recent information from public health experts. The superintendent has the authority to close schools without board approval.

Fernandez will continue to monitor the health situation to ensure that future school opening decisions align with the guidance of public health experts.

In the meantime, Sanchez says the department will be reaching out to its face-to-face students.

“We will still be reaching out to you. At this point, we want to give you updates. If there is a need to transition – if it’s just two weeks or if it will last longer – we’ll make sure we establish our communication with you so that if you want to transition to the online or hardcopy (lessons), we can do that,” Sanchez said.

Portions of the F.B. Leon Guerrero Middle School campus will be closed Friday for cleaning due to a school employee testing positive for COVID-19. According to the Joint Information Center, Public Health and GDOE are working to identify the individual’s close contacts who will not be permitted to return to campus until they are cleared.

In related news, the island’s Catholic schools will shift to remote learning only if the Governor places Guam in PCOR 2, according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Agana. If PCOR 2 is declared, parents and guardians will be advised of the effective dates for remote learning.