Decision to allow schools to reopen gives families options

BACK TO SCHOOL: Jose Rios Middle School welcomes back masked students on Aug. 12. The school will reopen to in-person learning along with other Guam public school students next week following a weeks-long COVID-19 pause. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero last week authorized the reopening of schools islandwide.

She did leave it up to individual private schools and the Guam Department of Education to determine the dates when they are ready to reopen.

In light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths attributed to the faster-spreading delta variant, the weeks-long pause to in-person learning hopefully allowed school systems and households to reassess their safety plans and safeguards.

On Monday, some of the island's elementary to secondary Catholic schools reopened. Nursery to kindergarten schools under the Catholic education system reopened as well.

At the Guam Department of Education, plans are underway to reopen next week.

Recognizing that not all families are comfortable sending their students back to school just yet, given that community COVID-19 cases are still high, GDOE is giving parents some leeway if their students don't show up for in-person learning. 

It's GDOE's way of offering a middle ground because those who signed up for in-person learning at the beginning of the school year cannot yet be accommodated to shift to online classes once face-to-face learning resumes. At the same time, excessive absenteeism will be tracked.

GDOE has a shortage of educators and the department simply doesn't have the staffing to accommodate a mass exodus from in-person learning to online while keeping the physical classrooms open.

When GDOE schools return to in-person instruction next week, Superintendent Jon Fernandez said it will be up to a special-needs student’s Individualized Education Plan team to determine if the student will need additional days of instruction on top of the cohort schedule. “Our students with special-needs operate according to their Individual Education Plan or IEPs which really dictates the services and the instruction supports needed at the school,” he said.

For families that are comfortable with safeguards in school and want their students to resume in-person learning, the reopening will help give students some normalcy they didn't get last year. The reopening of schools is critical for working parents as well.

Still, there are families that want to wait a little longer before sending kids back to campuses.

What matters is that the students and their families have choices.

Families do need to make sure their students are checked for signs of cold, flu or other symptoms of being under the weather before seeing them off to a bus stop or dropping them off to school.

The reopening of schools gives students a chance to become normal students again with a lot of pandemic-era safeguards.

It does take a collective vigilance to keep each and every school from becoming COVID-19 clusters. 

And this safeguard starts at every student's home. And the same goes for every school staff and educator's home as well.

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