Students, teachers welcome new cohort schedule

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GDOE students (PNC file photo)

Three days into the new 2-cohort schedule adopted by the Guam Department of Education, both students and teachers are settling in after initial glitches brought about by unfamiliarity with the new system.

Erika Cruz, GDOE deputy superintendent of educational support & community learning, said that during her visits to schools …. teachers, administrators, and especially the school children were very happy to be back to face-to-face classroom instruction.

“The teachers and administrators appreciated the fact that the cohorts were a little more manageable versus having our full capacity of students on campus. So that was a nice thing. The kids are happy to see each other and happy to just have some form of regular routine of getting up and going to school … and the teachers appreciate the class sizes,” Cruz said during GDOE’s briefing for the media held on Wednesday.

She added that it’s a lot different from what happened last year when there were some problems and issues.

“So far, things have gone so much more smoothly this time around with the cohorts being brought back,” Cruz said.

Despite the relative success of this year’s cohort schedule, GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said the end goal is still to return to the regular 5-day instruction time schedule.

“Obviously, we would like to get back to five days of instruction, but it really depends on the community’s progress in addressing the COVID-19 risks. With regard to the impact on learning, it’s very clear that there is going to be a need to resume five days of in-person instruction and use the opportunities available to ensure that our kids are given an opportunity to catch up, or to reinforce the areas of learning that were impacted by the virus and by the shutdown in schools,” Fernandez said.

GDOE deputy superintendent of curriculum & instruction Joe Sanchez added that although cohorts are alternating and student learning time is reduced, for a large percentage of families, even two days or three days a week of in-person learning is much better than just trying to have students go 100 percent online.

“Safety aside, from an academic standpoint, for a lot of our families, even if they have the laptops, even if they have the WiFi devices which a lot of them are starting to have, even if they have the internet connectivity … we feel that even two to three days a week of face-to-face instruction is much better than trying to push them all at once into online instruction,” Sanchez said.

Youth Advisory Council survey

GDOE’s assertion that students are happier and learn better with in-person instruction is validated by the results of a recent student survey conducted by the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC).

During their quarterly meeting on September 23, 2021, YAC presented the findings from their student survey to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Lieutenant Governor Josh Tenorio.

Among the conclusions of the survey was that most students preferred face-to-face learning and most students expressed willingness to get vaccinated in order to attend in-person learning.

From September 12 to September 15, the advisory group surveyed over 1,350 students on suspending in-person schooling and activities.

The survey results reaffirm the recommendations made by the YAC in their recommendation letter sent to the Governor on September 9, 2021, regarding the safe reopening of schools.

The survey findings included:

= 95.2% of students shared some level of concern about the spread of COVID-19 with in-person learning compared to the 4.8% who expressed not at all concerned;

= 87.1% of students preferred face-to-face learning compared to 12.9% who preferred online learning;

= 86.6% of students expressed willingness to get vaccinated to attend in-person learning compared to the 13.4% who expressed unwillingness;

= For those who expressed unwillingness to get vaccinated to attend school, 58.4% expressed willingness to get tested weekly, compared to the 41.6% who declined;

= 83.5% expressed concerns about their mental and social health being affected by online learning compared to the 16.5% who expressed it would have no effect;

= 78.5% expressed that upperclassmen should be given priority for in-person learning compared to 21.5% who disagreed;

= 62.7% did not disagree with Governor Leon Guerrero’s decision to suspend in-person learning; and

= For those who disagreed, the main concern expressed was the difficulty of online learning compared to in-person instruction.

Suggestions

In addition to survey findings, students also provided suggestions on how to resume in-person learning safely.

The suggestions included:

= Requiring vaccinations or weekly testing;

= Alternating days for high school students (Day A: Juniors and Seniors and Day B: Freshmen and Sophomores); and

= Alternating lunch periods.

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