Schools may not have the capacity for increase in face-to-face instruction

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GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez is doing his rounds and checking every single one of the 41 public schools to see if they can handle the increase in face-to-face capacity. (PNC photo)

With up to 85% of students from elementary to high school signing up for face-to-face instruction, Guam Department of Education Superintendent visited a number of public schools Tuesday to make sure they are ready for face-to-face instruction for summer and the next school year.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez is doing his rounds and checking every single one of the 41 public schools to see if they can handle the increase in face-to-face capacity.

While visiting the schools and talking to staff members, Fernandez says that even with the 3-feet distancing requirement, schools are not ready to return to normal just yet.

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“So what we’re doing is as we walk through the classrooms, we’re trying to see the impact of 3-feet distancing and understanding whether or not we can fit a full class back for 5 days of instruction and if not, what are the issues that need to be addressed. So I would say that looking at all the different schools and classrooms, we’re close, but we’re not quite there yet. I mean, we have classrooms that have 25-28 students in many cases. Our schools are letting us know and validating that we’re talking about 20-22 to 23 students. That still keeps us still ending up a little short in some schools. So the implication of that is that if those are the perimeters we’re working with, then that’s pushing us to more than one cohort,” Fernandez said.

The other issue that Fernandez wants to address is the storage issue at the schools.

“When it comes to clearing classrooms, we’re making sure we maximize the space of the classrooms, we’re finding that teachers have some things that they want to clear out by the end of the school year but that still leaves a lot of equipment that might need to be removed and if so, there’s a storage question. Where are they going to store these items? So in classrooms like kindergarten and science, we find a lot of shared tables where you can sit two to three students at a time while under the 3 ft. distancing. So we’re going to have to move to individual student desks,” Fernandez said.

While the schools are still operating according to the current CDC guidelines, Fernandez said other possibilities GDOE might look into include the consideration of having some of the students switch to online learning.

Other options include canopies outside of the schools for students’ lunch periods and additional staff support for supervision.

GDOE will still be discussing with stakeholders, DPHSS, and their task force on how to address all of the issues they had seen after the school visits and ways to address them

Even with the concerns on the capacities of school facilities, GDOE is still on track for face-to-face instruction to start for both the summer and fall terms.

The start day for the summer program is on June 7 while school year 21-22 starts on Aug. 10.

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