GDOE to offer workshops for parents in July

LEARNING: The Guam Department of Education is offering teachers a series of courses that focus on workforce education. In this photograph, Simon Sanchez High School Principal Carla Masnayon welcomes students during the first day of face-to-face classes on Jan. 19, 2021, in Yigo. Post file photo.

While more than 80% of the public school student population said they would return to the classroom next school year, social distancing requirements will make it difficult for the Guam Department of Education to resume face-to-face learning as officials had hoped. 

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Erika Cruz said the numbers are preliminary but reliable. She provided a breakdown of students by school level who registered to return to the classroom for face-to-face learning: 

• Elementary school students: 87%

• Middle school students: 84%

• High school students: 82% 

The second option, which is online learning, had the following preliminary registration numbers:

• Elementary school: 13%

• Middle school: 16%

• High school: 18%

"These numbers are quite accurate specifically because parents would have to make a concerted effort to turn in their model of selection form. Those that do not submit that model of selection form are automatically defaulted to face-to-face model of learning," Cruz said.

GDOE's enrollment period for parents to select their children's model of learning ran from March 17 to April 9. GDOE officials stressed the importance of the early enrollment period so they could properly plan the next school year and work to recreate a traditional learning environment plan that includes social distancing.

Limited capacity means limited in-school days

With so many students and social distancing requirements in some classes as well as common areas, such as the cafeteria and hallways, there will have to be a limit on how many students can be on campus at one time.

That means GDOE can't move forward with its goal to have face-to-face learning five days a week. Cruz said one cohort for all schools is difficult with the current numbers.

"That is a big item that I am currently working on with the school administrators," Cruz said. 

Cruz and Superintendent Jon Fernandez visited the schools to look at the facilities' capacities to assist school administrators with plans for the next school year.

Looking at the number of students returning to campus next year, GDOE also has to be creative in maximizing facility space.

The 6-foot rule applies to elective classes including chorus, band, music and physical education.

"The big one is cafeteria capacity obviously, because in the cafeteria you have to do 6-foot distancing because students are not using a mask," Cruz said.

Cruz said the majority of elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools would have to implement three lunch periods to accommodate all students while also keeping a sharp focus on safety. 

GDOE is working to procure 30-foot by 40-foot tents, folding tables and chairs for outdoor dining areas to address overflow.

Chairs are also being procured for students for use during recess.

To reduce crowding in the hallways and other areas where students wait for buses or cars when the school day is over, Cruz recommended to one school that they stagger release times – starting with some classrooms dismissing 10 minutes earlier than others.

Standardized online learning

GDOE officials have said they would like to create an online learning program that would allow GDOE teachers and students to enroll regardless of their school district.

Cruz said middle schools have integrated one period of online instruction for each of their teachers as part of their master schedules.

"High schools are currently working together to be able to cross-enroll so to speak, for the online model of learning, and then the elementary schools are working on the regional model of learning," Cruz said.

GDOE is in the process of creating a standardized model for online learning. Cruz said they also want to create a standardized online schedule for elementary schools.


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