Guam Department of Education schools may open classes for face-to-face instruction on Jan. 19, 2021, a week after the initial Jan. 11, 2021, date.
GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez, during a regular Safe and Healthy Schools work session on Friday, said he was open to delaying the start date, as that would give schools extra time to ensure preparations are complete, as well as extra time for the department to consider holding parent and student orientations.
The other consideration is the holiday break. Guam has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases since late November, which led to more reassuring results for both Guam's COVID-19 Area Risk Score and GDOE's own risk assessment.
However, teachers and staff are concerned with whether the island would move in the opposite direction following the holidays, Fernandez said.
"If we start on the 19th, I guess that would give us enough time to get through that incubation period and even additional days, and maybe let the teachers and staff who are going to be on the front lines feel more comfortable," he added.
On Dec. 22, the education department will submit a recommendation on reopening to the Guam Education Board for its decision.
The governor's authorization is needed before public or private schools can open, but GDOE has been developing reopening plans in anticipation of potentially resuming face-to-face instruction in January.
Adelup is optimistic about schools opening next year, but hasn't given a date when the governor might make her decision. Even if the governor's authorization is granted and GDOE opens schools by Jan. 4, Fernandez has stated that the first week may be dedicated to training teachers and staff.
That means Jan. 11 would be the actual first day of classes, unless GDOE proceeds with recommending the one-week delay. Fernandez noted during Friday's work session that GDOE will open schools when it feels it can do so comfortably.
Another proposal is to phase in the return to face-to-face instruction, with elementary schools being the first to start and secondary schools following a week after. That also might make it easier for the Department of Public Works to ensure proper bus operations, although GDOE is waiting for feedback on whether DPW is ready to proceed.
GDOE's online and hard copy distribution options will still be available along with face-to-face instruction.
Only about 34% of parents surveyed by the department said they would send their children to school. Dec. 18 marked the last day that parents could register students for face-to-face classes.
Fifty-six percent of students stated they were somewhat comfortable to very comfortable returning to face-to-face instruction.
GDOE also surveyed students who were 18 years old or older about whether they would return to face-to-face instruction. Similar to parents, 34% of the 309 students surveyed stated they would attend face-to-face classes.