With Guam's public schools reopening for the new school year a week from now, students and their families enter a new chapter of worries and struggles if they don't have the means to transport their children between home and school.
The busing schedule remains largely unchanged so many of our thousands of students will be standing in bus shelters even before the sun rises to catch the early bus schedule. When it rains, they will get soaked.
And without significant construction of bus shelters in recent years, some of our schoolchildren will be waiting on roadsides – many without guard rails to protect against speeding cars – and exposed to the elements.
These were the struggles many of our students faced last school year and in years past. These are the same struggles they will go through again even before they can start their classroom learning.
Before the school year begins, the odds of public school children from poor families succeeding are already stacked up against them. With many families unable to afford a reliable car, or spend more for gasoline, vehicle upkeep and insurance, some students will be faced with an enormous toll on their mind and body – just to get a bus ride to school.
By the time school starts, students from families in poverty will already be fighting exhaustion. Many teachers have said before that the struggle for some of our students begins at home, where living conditions are substandard and they don't get to eat breakfast until they arrive in school where it's free. While other students from more stable households will be well on their way preparing in class, other students in less economically fortunate homes will still be hopping off buses and rushing to get breakfast in the school cafeteria, and that's assuming the buses are running on schedule.
The road has been paved with a lot of obstacles for many of our low-income families. We as a community owe the schoolchildren from struggling families a fair shot at succeeding by helping them to be prepared to learn in the classrooms. Our elected officials must prioritize the need for an adequate number of school buses and drivers, a sensible busing schedule that's centered around the needs of the students – rather than the government's shortcomings – and bus shelters to keep them safe. It's also equally important to keep public policies focused on a better path for the adults in the students' households to get jobs or better-paying jobs.
It sounds like a lot to ask, but the results could really change our community for the better.