When the COVID-19 crisis hit Guam in mid-March, the community was able to see the role that the Guam Department of Education plays in times of crisis. Over 40 school nurses reported to the front lines of our public health response, 10 school resource officers were deployed to support quarantine operations, 10 social workers were mobilized for contact tracing, and more than 200 GDOE staff members served daily school breakfasts and lunches at 12 school sites and spent hours loading car trunks with food commodities and fresh produce. In total, the GDOE has been able to provide nearly 2 million school meals and over 34,000 food commodity bags with a total of 444,000 items distributed to the community through this pandemic.

As our community works its way through this pandemic, GDOE has put forward a plan for the potential reopening of schools in the event that our governor and our public health experts declare it safe to do so. Our plan identifies three main areas of focus: Safety, distance learning, and social and emotional wellness. The plan puts safety first with requirements for face masks or shields for employees and students, temperature checks, frequent cleaning and hand washing, and physical distancing. The focus on safety means we cannot accommodate all students back in school at one time, which has led to three options for students:

1. 100% home learning online;

2. 100% home learning with hard copy materials; or

3. alternating days of face-to-face classroom instruction combined with home learning.

Finally, we know our students and employees have come through a pretty traumatic period, and we will be spending time this summer training and preparing school leaders to focus on social and emotional well-being and providing support before we get down to the business of academics.

Over the next few weeks, we know there are still many details that will need to be worked out at each school by principals, teachers and staff. Of critical importance is getting information from parents and guardians regarding which of the three models of learning they prefer for their children. If you haven’t received an email, phone call or home visit from your school yet, please do reach out and contact your school directly to fill out the “Model of Learning Registration” form; school contact information can be found at our website at www.gdoe.net.

Once we know how many students have chosen each option, we will be able to better organize, prepare and communicate a more detailed plan of action for the opening of the school year. We will also continue to reach out to parents through our schools and parent-teacher organizations to answer questions and gather more input. Please join us in this conversation.

We certainly look forward to the day we can open up and operate under normal conditions where kids can all come back to school to get in-class instruction, socialize with their peers, and receive the supports that are normally available at school, whether it be food, counseling, or extracurricular activities.

We know that a full reopening of schools under safe conditions will be good for students and will enable parents and guardians to fully return to work as our economy rebuilds. Until that day, our plan represents our best research, ideas, and recommendations to give us a chance at safely continuing our mission, albeit using different models of teaching and learning, during the critical beginning phase of our island’s recovery.

Jon Fernandez is the superintendent of the Guam Department of Education, which serves close to 30,000 students.


Recommended for you