GDOE mulling resumption of regular classes in January 2021

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

GDOE students will not be able to attend regular classes until January 2021 at the earliest.

Superintendent Jon Fernandez —in a letter to the education board —- announced that face-to-face instruction will not be offered for the second quarter which begins today, Friday, October 16.

He also instructed all GDOE schools to continue the home distance learning model.

The decision was based on risks associated with the island’s current public health situation which Fernandez says is not conducive to in-classroom learning.

This decision is also based on data the department has been tracking using a framework provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control which assesses the risk of introduction and transmission of the COVID-19 virus in schools.

In an interview with PNC, Fernandez presented a dashboard he created and adapted based on the CDC framework and with public reports from Public Health. Fernandez said he understands that as much as many of us would like our kids to go back to school, health and safety is their main priority

“As you can tell, at the codes, orange is the highest risk, yellow is high, tan is moderate, and the greens are low to lowest risk and based on the last week of data, we’re clearly in the situation we’re at the highest risk in terms of the risk of transmission and that’s something we’re going to need to monitor as we discuss the possibility of reopening,” Fernandez said.

He added: “We all want to reopen, we all want to get to a point where we can bring our kids back to school so they can be with their teachers, our counselors, our nurses, you know, on a day-to-day basis like we’ve done in the past during a regular school year but we can’t say enough that the key factor has to be safety. We need to be able to do that and do it safely so we can protect our students and our employees amidst of this pandemic. So while the community is in that orange category, it’s going to be harder to convince our stakeholders that we’re ready to reopen and welcome kids back to school.”

Even if schools, which include private and charter schools, come back to a lower risk environment, Fernandez said they must have mitigation strategies in place before going forward, such as the right use of masks, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing.

Additional measures include preparing, securing and providing supplies such as plexiglass, temperature checks as well as focusing on training procedures for employees to bring reassurance to the island community so that when the governor gives the authorization for schools to reopen, they’ll be ready.

Fernandez is also seeking the Guam Education Board’s support for this ruling and will be updating the GEB every Friday at 11 a.m.

Starting Friday, October 23, GDOE will also provide regular briefings for stakeholders.