GDOE’s back-to-school guide: Here’s what you need to know

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Students in the island's public schools are going back to in-person classes on Aug. 12 (PNC file photo)

The first day of classes for Guam Department of Education schools is today, Thursday, August 12, 2021.

Approximately 8 percent of GDOE students are registered for online learning; the remaining 92 percent of students are registered to begin in-person instruction at all 41 GDOE schools.

“It has been our priority to bring our students safely back to school and back to the classroom for the coming school year,” said GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez. “We are prepared to receive our kids back to our campuses and we look forward to supporting the academic, social, and emotional needs of our children.”

Here’s information that parents and our family and community stakeholders need to know for the beginning of SY 2021 -2022:

First Day of School:

The first day of school for all students is Thursday, August 12, 2021.  Students will be attending school five (5) days a week. School hours for SY 2021 – 2022 will remain unchanged from prior school years:

Elementary Schools Middle Schools High Schools
8:30 a.m. to 2:43 p.m. 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. JFKHS, THS,

SHS, CSA, & JPTSA

6:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
GWHS, OHS, & SSHS 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Bus services for our students will be provided, and the bus schedule is anticipated to be published this Sunday.

Models of Learning (MOL):  

The GDOE is offering two models of learning at the beginning of this school year:

  • In-person Instruction
  • Home Learning:  Online Instruction

Orientations for students enrolled in the online MOL are ongoing to provide students and families information about the MOL as well as the regional online classes. Orientations for students enrolled in the in-person MOL are also ongoing at each respective school. Parents and guardians may contact schools for the orientation schedule.

Safe & Healthy Schools:

While we are returning to a relatively normal schedule and mode of operation, there will be many differences in terms of the health and safety requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS), the GDOE is using a layered safety and risk mitigation approach in all of our schools.  That means that we are implementing multiple strategies to keep our kids and employees safe.

The ten key strategies being implemented at all schools include the following:

  1. Ensuring that employees and students stay home when sick;
  2. Encouraging eligible individuals to vaccinate;
  3. Requiring the use of a face mask at school throughout the day;
  4. Developing regular screening and testing of students and employees;
  5. Promoting frequent hand washing;
  6. Requiring frequent cleaning and disinfection;
  7. Maximizing physical distancing where possible;
  8. Ensuring proper respiratory etiquette;
  9. Maximizing ventilation; and
  10. Conducting contact tracing for positive cases

 

The GDOE knows that any one strategy, by itself, may not effectively prevent the spread of COVID19 in all cases. However, the implementation of multiple strategies greatly improves the likelihood of success, and that is how our approach is structured.  The GDOE is providing supplies and equipment to the schools to support these safety measures. In addition, the GDOE has trained its school employees with regard to the implementation of these protocols.

Uniforms:

School uniforms are required this year. Parents and guardians are encouraged to contact their children’s school for further clarification of the required uniform and for information regarding the vendor at which they should purchase uniforms.

For online students, uniform tops are required. Schools will have a limited amount of uniform vouchers for families that may need that support, and parents and guardians should contact schools directly. Over time, GDOE will be providing additional voucher support to families in need.

Immunizations, Screening, Testing, and Vaccinations:

Guam Law (10 GCA Health and Safety, Ch. 3 § 3322. Vaccination and Immunization) requires that each child should be properly immunized for school attendance. Health requirements for enrollment and attendance include the following:

  •  Updated shot records
  • Physical Examination at entering kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade
  • TB Skin Test at kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade or TB Clearances if the student had a previous positive TB Skin Test result

Guam Department of Education (GDOE) has an exclusion policy for lack of required immunizations, Physical Examinations, and TB Skin Tests or TB Clearances. Absences incurred from exclusions are unexcused.

Exemptions to immunization are as follows:

  • Religious beliefs:  Parents and guardians would need to submit an annual certification from the Director of DPHSS.
  • Medical Contradictions: Parents and guardians would need to submit a written statement from a Licensed Healthcare Provider indicating vaccination contraindications.

At the beginning of every school year, the School Health Counselor will disseminate and collect Student Emergency Information and Healthy forms (EIHF). These forms need to be completed as soon as possible at the beginning of each school year.  Parents and guardians are responsible for updating student information if there are any changes to contact information.  These changes must be submitted the following school day.  Anyone persons who are listed as alternatives to pick up students from school must have a valid photo identification.

The GDOE continues to encourage employees and students who are 12 years of age or older to get vaccinated.  Currently, over 75% of school staff members are fully vaccinated.  Islandwide, 53% of our 16-19-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and 37% of our 12-15-year-olds are fully vaccinated. Once we return to school, we will be working to encourage and provide support to all eligible individuals who are able to receive the vaccination.

School Meals:

School breakfast and lunches will continue to be served at no cost to students who wish to participate. Due to the health and safety requirements, schools will be offering staggered lunch hours and maximizing physical distancing in accordance with our health guidelines.  Menus for Headstart, Pre-K, and K-12 will be made available on the GDOE website and other social media platforms.

Interscholastic Sports:

The GDOE plans to continue with extracurricular activities throughout the school year. This includes interscholastic sports for middle and high school students.

ISA Interscholastic Sports Association:

  • Four-quarter sports will be implemented this year with safety guidelines aligned with the Governor’s executive orders and DPHSS guidelines.
  • Current guidelines and regular updates from the Governor or DPHSS will be reviewed and ISA safety guidelines will be updated as needed.
  • Masks will continue to be mandatory for coaches, spectators, and athletes when not participating on the field.
  • Temperature checks will continue to be conducted in all indoor facilities for spectators, athletes, and coaches.
  • Coaches will continue current requirements for Covid-19 contact tracing at practices and games.

Social-Emotional Wellness Support:

The return of in-person learning may bring with it anxiety and stress.  The GDOE has compiled a directory of organizations in the community that can provide students with social-emotional support. On-going training for teachers and school administrators on social and emotional wellness and learning for students so they can be prepared to address and refer appropriately.

Supporting the needs of students with readjustment, transition, and learning loss by addressing and providing services for students to seek the additional supports to thrive in a safe learning environment (e.g., small groups, class presentations, and referrals for therapeutic services).  Disruptions to students’ mental and emotional health, social systems of support, and learning environments require a new focus on social and emotional well-being. Although the need to assess students’ social and emotional well-being in a virtual environment is new, we can still draw from assessments that were developed and validated prior to the pandemic.

A comprehensive system for monitoring student well-being will support students in schools and classrooms and allow for tiered referrals for special services. The use of validated screeners on social and emotional well-being, learning conditions, and other non-academic measures are critical in the transition to school for students.  Integrating social and emotional activities and conversations with students as part of the daily classroom agenda in addressing wellness and learning.

Parent-Input Sessions:

The GDOE will be hosting a series of back-to-school input sessions for students and our family and community stakeholders.  These input sessions will be hosted on Zoom and live-streamed on the GDOE’s Facebook page.  The schedule is as follows:

Date Start Time District(s) Zoom Meeting ID:
Thursday,

August 5, 2021

6:00 p.m. Lagu & Luchan https://zoom.us/j/97743617605
Saturday,

August 7, 2021

10:00 a.m. Open to All Districts  https://zoom.us/j/97474121519
Tuesday,

August 10, 2021

6:00 p.m. Haya & Kattan https://zoom.us/j/93951767706

Contact Information:

 For general inquiries, students, family, and community stakeholders may send an email to info@gdoe.net.

For inquiries about the regional online classes, emails may be sent to elementary-online-admin@gdoe.net.

Family and community stakeholders may also contact the Interim Public Information Officer, Michelle Franquez, at (671) 300-1677 or, may send an email to matfranquez@gdoe.net.

(GDOE Release)

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