The Guam Department of Education and other local schools are making preparations for a January return to campuses, which for the most part have been shut down since March.
Some schools, like Father Duenas Memorial School and other Catholic schools, as well as private schools like Harvest Christian Academy, had tried to start the 2020-2021 school year with on-campus classes and in-person instruction.
However, an increasing number of daily positive cases of COVID-19 and increased hospitalizations related to the respiratory illness led Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to shut down schools in an effort to slow its spread. For months, the island's COVID-19 numbers continued to grow and federal partners helped place temporary hospital tents at Guam Memorial Hospital and Guam Regional Medical City to provide additional beds for patients.
Department of Defense Education Activity schools resumed classes in October with strict protocols. DODEA officials have said there have been no COVID-19 cases reported.
Civilian schools remain closed but a downward trend in positive cases and hospitalizations that started in November continues and with that, a look at starting classes in January.
GDOE and other schools are just awaiting the governor to approve the reopenings.
The Scoop reporters reached out to their peers to ask how they felt. Here's what teens had to say:
QUESTION: Are you ready to go back to school with face-to-face instruction?
Sam Lagman, senior at John F. Kennedy High School: Mentally, I think that many students like me need the physical environment of being around other students and a proper learning environment. Studying at home is bound to be full of distractions and makes it difficult to maintain motivation. After a semester of online learning, I have just gotten adjusted to learning through the screen. I think a change in the middle of the school year could be a huge adjustment to students, teachers and parents alike. Realistically speaking, I don't know if it's the best form of instruction as the island still continues to recover from the virus. Of course, as a senior, I would love to spend my last few months experiencing the typical senior memories. I want to be able to be with my friends even if we're 6 feet apart and we're wearing masks. If I had to, I wouldn't be mad about it.
Monica Cosico, junior at John F. Kennedy High School: I'm being honest, I'm still quite unsure about going back to school for face-to-face learning. At the same time, there are many school activities that I dearly miss like Vivace concerts and activity days.
Mikayla Angoco, senior at Guam High School: Well, since I've been going back to school at Guam High since the beginning of October, I've already adapted to the safety protocols and procedures. Because of this, I would say that I am ready to go back to school face to face since I've been so used to surrounding myself with other individuals who are dealing with this pandemic as well.
Franchesca Tibayan, junior at Notre Dame High School: No, I am not ready to go back to school with face-to-face instruction. I have a lot of concerns and worries.
Thomas Moylan, junior at Father Duenas Memorial School: Yes, I feel that it is important for us to go back to in-person, face-to-face instruction, because we are falling behind in the learning curve. It is also a fact that we are behind in SAT scores and many other forms of testing, due to this pandemic. Although online learning is the most effective way to teach during these times, it is not what we are conditioned to do as of now. As we grow, learn and achieve more academically, we are set to play an important role in our society, but there is no doubt that this virus affected us. For me, personally, I would love to go back to in-person because I crave social interaction, if that's a good way to put it.
Kylie McMillan, senior at Harvest Christian Academy: Yes, I'm ready to go back. I feel like at this point, I need face-to-face interaction to properly prepare myself for face-to-face learning in college. Physical learning holds me accountable for my work, and it's easier to stay motivated when I don't have technology and the extents of the internet at my fingertips.
QUESTION: What concerns do you have, if any, about returning to school?
Lagman: Although we have access to the vaccine on island and the school will be taking precautions, it's still high-risk. There's no way that we can 100% prevent the spread of the pandemic. I'm worried that not even a week would pass and there would be several cases in our school. I'm not too worried about having to be too cautious, I think anything close to normalcy while being safe is a good option. Something that comes to mind is the possibility of sports and extracurriculars happening. Those two things are a crucial part of the high school experience and going face-to-face without being able to do them may be discouraging.
Cosico: Just like any other person, I am still concerned about the idea of returning to school physically. The reason for that is because it could spike another surge in the number of cases. Despite of having the vaccine available, it is not guaranteed that every single student is able to receive it. I would rather have the option of online learning or hard copy open.
Angoco: The concerns that I still have about going to school face-to-face is just making sure that everyone is following all safety guidelines and just making sure that everyone will be considerate of students' and staff members' health and wellness.
Tibayan: Literally everything concerns me. I feel like going back face-to-face is a bad idea. I don't know how well-equipped schools are to handle safety precautions and I doubt students will be responsible enough to follow protocols. I also think that going back to school will start a third wave.
Moylan: One concern I would have for returning to school would be how safe it will be. Will the environment be safe for both learning and interacting, or will there be limitations to what a student can do? There is a lot of preparation that goes into opening schools during a live pandemic. COVID-19 shows no signs of decreasing, as the rate of people affected is still rising. I want to feel as safe as possible at school, as well as home. I do not want to spread this virus to my family members or loved ones. So, my honest opinion would be to go with face-to-face, but also have online as an option as well.
McMillan: My main concern with returning to school would be putting a lot of work into going to physical school just to shut down again especially if the school(s) has a good system. I feel that it's a waste of time and energy for the schools and the students to keep preparing for face-to-face learning just to be shut down again.