Doubt cast on whether public schools can open in time; GDOE confident they can

Guam Education Board member Robert Crisostomo (PNC photo)

At least one member of the Guam Education Board has expressed doubts about whether public schools can open in time.

Noting that the Guam Department of Education still has a lot of work to do concerning teacher and student schedules as well as equipment and supply issues related to COVID-19, GEB board member Robert Crisostomo asked during a board meeting whether GDOE can still follow its target opening dates for both summer school in June and the start of the next school year slated for Aug. 10.

“Mr. Superintendent, you have a lot of moving parts. Just looking at the complexity of your problems, I’m trying to manage expectations. Is August, a realistic date for you guys to effectively open, number one. Number two, based on all the information coming in … it’s quite concerning that this late in the game, we’re just addressing these problems. Do you think everything’s going to be in place,” Crisostomo asked GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez.

Crisostomo added that he is also doubtful whether even the summer session can open in time.

“Summer, in my opinion, is a soft opening. August is full-blown, five days a week. I don’t want to give the public the wrong expectations that this board has not planned accordingly,” Crisostomo said.

In response, Fernandez acknowledged that what Crisostomo asked was a good question.

“You know, that is what keeps us up at all hours. But the answer is we are committed to opening our schools on time. Whether it’s a two-mode of learning that we go to or a different model completely, that’s always going to be our commitment — to get it done. And in order to prioritize how we’re going to do that, we are looking at making sure that we meet the requirements that are out there,” Fernandez said.

The GDOE superintendent acknowledged that there are a lot of “moving parts” that the department is working on as Crisostomo pointed out.

But Fernandez said some things are going to be more important than others to allow GDOE to function safely and these will be prioritized.

“The chief thing that’s driving us is safety and the CDC guidance. There are a lot of things that are itemized for purchase, but my framework and priority is going to be what is required for us to function safely,” Fernandez stressed.

He promised to keep the education board constantly apprised of any major concern that could affect the start of the school year.