GDOE starts COVID testing of employees

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

The Guam Department of Education is kicking off the COVID testing of its unvaccinated employees today as required by the governor’s executive order.

GDOE superintendent Jon Fernandez said every school has a nurse and the school nurse, working with the administrator, has a list of the employees who need to test.

“They’re given the flexibility to designate what day and what time the employees can test, so that they’re not all doing it at one time and they can spread it out during the week and make it easier to administer. So based on that, we’re going to go forward on Monday and we can give a status update of how things have gone,” the GDOE superintendent said.

He added that there will be consequences if employees refuse to be vaccinated or tested.

“My understanding is that if they do not comply with the vaccination or testing options, number one, they are not to be allowed to come on campus. This iis something that we’re working to make sure we understand and confirm. At any government agency, if you don’t comply, you’re not supposed to report to work, and those employees will then need to resort to annual leave, or, if they don’t have any leave, leave without pay,” the GDOE superintendent said.

In GDOE’s situation, Fernandez said if their employees don’t comply and are not able to come to school, they will have to basically take annual leave, or leave without pay.

“For teachers … which is of course we’re concerned about losing any teachers … but teachers don’t normally have annual leave, so they have three days of personal leave. Once they exhaust those, that would also be leave without pay. So again, once we get through this week, we’ll be able to determine who’s compliant and who’s not compliant,” the GDOE superintendent said.

According to Fernandez, notices were already sent last week to the employees who are required to test, and this includes those who may have received only the first dose of vaccination.

“We are also inviting those employees who have said that they won’t vaccinate or test at all. We’re going to go in and give them an opportunity to comply. All in all, the updated list that we have is about 350 employees who are required to be tested, spread out across the schools, and division offices,” Fernandez said during a media briefing Wednesday.

He described the GDOE employee testing as “a rather large operation” but said they did get all the necessary authorizations from Public Health.

“We also met with administrators to make sure they were clear on procedures and responsibilities and how often they need to be reporting compliance to our human resources office. The notices were sent out to employees so they understand that testing will commence,” Fernandez said.

With regard to the controversial random student testing plan, Fernandez said there isn’t a mandate that says that if a student refuses to test, there’s going to be some kind of consequence.

“It just means that we have to find a way as a department to find willing students with the consent of their parents to submit to testing. So it is voluntary. I don’t see any consequences for any students or those whose parents refuse their children to be tested,” Fernandez said.

He added that the 10 percent of a school’s population required by Public Health for testing is really just to capture enough samples of students to give administrators a sense of whether there are undetected positive cases in GDOE schools.

“So really, employee testing and student testing are two very different things and we hope to provide more information and more education to our community about what screening and testing are supposed to be and what it’s supposed to accomplish and if we end up doing it. We’re looking for volunteers, because I don’t think we’re going to be in any position to force students to test without consent, nor do I think we will be in a position to deny a student their education,” Fernandez said.