$41.5 million dollars from the CARES Act has been approved by the federal government for the Guam Department of Education to use for purchasing safety supplies, investing in distance learning technology, and providing mental health support for the island’s school system.
The grant is part of $54 million in funding that Guam received to support education activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the leftover $12.5 million of that total going to the Governor of Guam for education assistance.
GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez says that a majority of the $41.5 million dollars will be used to purchase masks, face shields, and sanitation equipment for schools.
“It was a short, expedited process and we’re proud to say that the $41.5 million will be pushed forward to support our traditional public schools and our charter and private schools who will benefit,” Fernandez said.
Regarding the agency’s emergency food commodity distribution program, it was suspended this week to replenish supplies. And to accommodate the high demand for food assistance, Fernandez says that GDOE is trying to open a third site to give out food.
The new location is yet to be announced, but he says that distribution will reopen next Tuesday, June 9 and that he hopes that more supplies can be given to the community.
“We will have the support of DPW, the police department, and the National Guard in opening up additional sites. We’re looking at the sites down south, so we’ll identify where they are specifically. What we’re hoping to do is open northern, southern, and central sites so that residents can have commodities in closer proximity to where they live,” Fernandez said.
As for summer school, Fernandez is looking at sometime mid-June to start classes, but that’s all dependent on approval from the Governor and whether GDOE can get proper protective equipment to ensure student and staff safety.
Distance learning will be used primarily for summer education, but he says that there will be a need for students to occasionally meet in person with their teachers.
Regarding the start of the next school year, Fernandez says that August 11 is the agency’s tentative target date and may involve alternate school schedules to accommodate social distancing measures.
“Our goal is to finalize decisions by the end of June. We have two meetings set up for June 12th and June 23rd with the Guam Education Board and those will be the two opportunities for the board has to review, refine, and approve the plans for reopening,” Fernandez said.