Guam – Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez has issued the following statement expressing his concern about over the school transportation issues facing the island’s public school system:
“As Superintendent, I take seriously the transportation issues that affect our public school students. Based on data that I had my staff pull earlier this month, we estimate that we have about 70 to 75 percent of bus riders in the public school system, and I am committed to making sure that we address their transportation needs for the coming school year and beyond. What we need right now is an opportunity to sit down, review the relevant data, and identify short-term and long-term options. Then we must proceed with the interests of our students at heart.
In my brief four weeks on the job, I feel that GDOE and DPW have been working well together. For instance, on my first day on the job, Director Joanne Brown raised concerns to my staff about the significant impact of the proposed 4 A/B high school schedule on bus operations. Based on that input, I made the decision that same day to delay the new schedule for one year. I wanted to get more input from stakeholders, but I agreed that we should not put additional pressure on our aging bus fleet.
With the Governor’s support, DPW’s bus operations team and my staff are now working closely to expedite a transportation solution that would allow George Washington High School to run a double session through the first quarter of the school year. The double session would give us time to complete 17 state-of-the-art STEM classrooms that we want to deliver to our students this coming school year. On GDOE’s behalf, I have already committed to providing approximately $150,000 to cover the estimated costs of fuel, overtime, and leasing of up to 15 private buses. Contrary to what some may think, I believe GDOE and DPW are working well together, one project at a time.
Once we resolve the GW situation, we need to sit down to go over the bigger issues related to public school bus transportation. I want to validate the data and get a better understanding of the operational situation at DPW, so that I can make recommendations that are well-informed, cost-conscious, and centered on the needs of our public schools students.
Director Brown is doing her job in calling attention to the crisis at DPW. I look forward to sitting down with her and anyone else who wants to help, so we can develop a reasonable solution to the situation at hand.”