‘Soft opening’ of face-to-face instruction generally went smoothly

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Tuesday is the first day of face-to-face instruction for Simon Sanchez High School, FB Leon Guerrero, and Benavente Middle School. So far, according to school staff, things have gone quite smoothly. (PNC photo)

Serving as a “soft opening” of sorts for in-person learning, three Guam Department of Education (GDOE) schools welcomed students back for face-to-face instruction today. These students haven’t set foot on campus since March of last year.

Tuesday is the first day of face-to-face instruction for Simon Sanchez High School, FB Leon Guerrero, and Benavente Middle School. So far, according to school staff, things have gone quite smoothly.

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BMS school aide Anita McKale is one of the staff members who were able to welcome back students for face-to-face instruction. McKale says she and her staff are ready to help them adjust to the new school norm

“We all work together. I’m down at the cafeteria making sure that when the students come in, they follow the arrows to eat breakfast and we seated them from 1- 50, Our capacity is 50 students each morning. After that, they go out, they line up, and they can talk with their friends as long as they’re 6 feet apart,” McKale said.

She added: “When I see the kids, some of them were scared, they didn’t want to talk. Us, we greeted them in the morning and say ‘How are you, welcome back to BMS.’ But they’re quiet and they’re scared. But we’re here to help them adjust to the new … well … what we’re doing right now.”

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez visited all three schools and said that according to reports, everything seems to running steadily and everyone is still adjusting to “a very unusual first day of school.”

“So we went around to just kind of gauge. We knew there were going to be low numbers of students coming back. We planned for that so that we can practice our safety precautions and test out our safety procedures with the low number of students before we can think about expanding. So up at Simon Sanchez and FB it was pretty quiet. We had about 50-60 students at Simon Sanchez, maybe closer to 80-90 students at FB Leon Guerrero,” Fernandez said.

He added: “In talking with some of the students, it was very clear that maybe the first couple of weeks of no school was exciting for them and they enjoyed that. But after three weeks, after a month, after a couple of months, a lot of them just wanted to come back and be back in a a school setting.”

Fernandez also said that there were some students who came to the schools but weren’t registered. However, he said it wasn’t an overwhelming number. In terms of capacity, Fernandez said he leaves it up to the individual schools to determine how many they can accept on school campuses.

The GDOE Superintendent also wanted to make sure during his visits that the teachers and school staff are comfortable with the procedures in place and are able to do their jobs safely.

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