Education board votes to push through with Aug. 17 school opening

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The Guam Education Board yesterday voted 5-3 to push through with the opening of public schools on Aug. 17 despite the spike in COVID-19 cases on island.

On Tuesday, the island saw another 16 new cases of COVID-19 cases and before that, there was a marked increase in COVID-19 cases which saw more people afflicted by the virus, including no less than Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.

Before she announced that she tested positive for COVID-19, the governor acknowledged the spike in COVID-19 cases in a news conference by announcing the implementation of additional restrictions on bars, funerals, and social gatherings.

But she left the decision on when to open the new school year to the Guam Department of Education and the education board.

During yesterday’s education board meeting, board member John Burch was one of those who pushed for a delay in the opening of school.

Just like most parents, Burch said he was concerned about the school children due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

In fact, during the meeting, it was revealed that schools are having difficulties in determining the exact number of their students because parents constantly change their decisions and can’t make up their minds on whether to send their kids to school for face-to-face instruction.

Burch said he wants to err on the side of safety and caution. He also said new teachers may need additional training and even veteran teachers may need more time to prepare.

“I don’t want to rush into this. Teachers and school administrators may need more time, maybe at least one more week,” Burch said.

During the meeting, however, GDOE superintendent Jon Fernandez briefed the board members on the health and safety measures that the department already initiated to ensure the well-being of the island’s public school students.

Fernandez also said that GDOE continues to work closely with the Department of Public Health and Social Services and the Office of the Governor to monitor the health situation on island.

GDOE Deputy Superintendent Joe Sanchez also pointed out that the public school sector is in this situation because of a pandemic that no one asked for.

“In a perfect world, preparing for school opening under this pandemic could take months. But most teachers know that at some point we have to start,” Sanchez said.

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