GDOE studying scenarios for a possible full return to 5-day in-person instruction by December

Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

With the spike in the COVID positivity rate apparently leveling off, the Guam Department of Education is studying various scenarios for the possible full return of 5-day in-person instruction by December.

In a media briefing Wednesday, GDOE superintendent Jon Fernandez said that since coming back to face-to-face instruction, albeit under a 2-cohort system, things have been turning in the right direction.

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“It’s taken some time since that first shutdown. But the positivity rate has moved down and out of the high-risk level. Our CDC framework, while we still are at substantial risk, it’s not at the highest risk level and we’re seeing those numbers steadily trend down. So, you know, as we look at the past experience with COVID-19, we’ve seen that same peak and the same decline in the data that we saw last year. And once we got down to a certain level, we were able to reopen schools and get back to some type of routine the latter half of last year,” the GDOE superintendent said.

Having been familiar with that cycle and expecting that the numbers will continue to decline, Fernandez said they are considering various scenarios to bring students back for five days of face-to-face instruction and looking at what that timeframe might be.

“We’re looking at whether it’s all students or just some students. So, for instance, one of the questions that we’re trying to answer right now is with the older students, whether middle school or high school. Having access to vaccination, and also being vaccinated at a high rate, we’re looking at scenarios in which they might be able to return first,” Fernandez said.

As for the under-12 school kids, Fernandez said it looks like vaccination for this age group is within days of approval.

“We might continue to go on cohorts for the younger kids until we have enough time for them to get their doses. So those are some of the scenarios we’re working with right now, trying to figure out what’s possible and logistically working with DPW on school buses and so forth,” Fernandez said.

But once GDOE comes to a determination of who can come back and what that timeframe is, Fernandez said they’ll be presenting their plan publicly to the Guam Education Board and to the other stakeholders.

“I definitely would like to see something happen before the end of December, but it’s going to take our planners and our organizers to make sure that’s possible. And that we can assure our administrators, our employees, and our families that it will be safe to do so,” Fernandez said.