No timeline for return to in-person classroom instruction

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Guam Department of Education (PNC file photo)

There is currently no timeline for a return to in-person classroom instruction, Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez said.

During a virtual input session participated in by GDOE parents, Fernandez said he cannot give a definite date of when students can go back to in-person instruction because of the constantly evolving COVID-19 situation.

“Right now, really, there isn’t a timeline. I think the Governor has been in discussion with members of the private school community and public schools about what that timeline will be, but I just want to let the community know there isn’t any official timeline to return. What we’re here to discuss today is what’s happening with COVID-19 in the community. And then, based on that information, we need to continue that discussion about what the right timing is that will enable us to return to in-person learning but to do so safely and with the confidence of our parents,” Fernandez said.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero was originally supposed to issue an executive order last Friday authorizing a return to face-to-face classroom instruction. But because of the spike in COVID-19 cases, Adelup decided to continue the suspension of in-person classroom learning.

School leaders were already informed that the governor plans to announce an executive order allowing the reopening of schools for face-to-face learning on Monday, Sept. 13. According to Adelup, the decision to continue the suspension was based on the recommendation of the Department of Public Health and Social Services and the Surgeon Cell.

The governor and her medical advisers, who also participated in the online meeting, assured the parents that despite her decision to continue suspending in-person learning, she really wants to see the children back in school.

“I just want to say at the beginning that I want our children back in school. Our children have been out of school for more than a year. And we all know that the best way to learn is in school,” Leon Guerrero said.

However, the governor acknowledged that there is community spread and this is the reason she asked Superintendent Fernandez to continue closing down the schools.

“I do not want the community spread to spread into the community of our children and our educators. Going to school is a very high risk of exposure to this virus and I want to prevent the virus from coming into the schools. We were looking at the numbers and our advisors, and our experts felt comfortable that maybe we could open the schools. However, the numbers went up overnight and this is the badness of this virus. It can change and it evolves. And it can turn around in the snap of a finger,” Leon Guerrero said.

She added: “And so we as a community, both in education and out in the community, need to be flexible and adjust to the circumstances. And yes, it might be inconvenient, but the bottom line is, we are protecting the most vulnerable members of our community —- and that’s our children. And the best way to protect our children is to make sure that the environment they’re going to be in is safe, and your protocols are in place.”

The governor said she has asked Fernandez to delay GDOE’s planned Sept. 20 school reopening by at least one week so that they can look at the data.

“I will tell you that when things aren’t going right, we will act accordingly. And we will let the superintendent and the teachers and the parents know. These are very trying times. I know people are struggling. And I know people are anxious. People are afraid. But together as a community, we have to be united on this. We have to hold hands together and work together to beat this virus,” Leon Guerrero said.

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