From clean bathrooms to the cost of school supplies and bullying on school campus – parents have some concerns as their children walk into the 41 public schools today for the start of the new school year.

One parent sent a message to The Guam Daily Post saying: “George Washington High School really, needs great restrooms for the students. Please, please get restrooms fixed all around.”

The Post sent the question to Guam Department of Education spokeswoman Isa Baza and she responded: “School maintenance and repair was conducted at all schools over the summer. A walkthrough was also conducted at George Washington High School this afternoon, and all bathrooms at the school are clean and ready for use on the first day of classes.”

GDOE personnel have been working through the summer to clean and do what maintenance they can at schools. An effort to repair or replace canopies over walkways at three schools is ongoing. Other schools, with the help of some agencies, were water-blasted and received a fresh coat of paint.

Facilities weren’t parents’ only concerns, however.

For Yona resident Rhea Taisipic one concern is the cost of purchasing a long list of school supplies for her three children who attend Inarajan Elementary and Southern High schools.

“I usually spend about $100 for three kids,” she said. “It’s a lot … If you see the list for some elementary school kids, I can see why some parents don’t even get the whole thing.”

Many elementary schools’ supplies lists include a number of items, from pens and markers to photocopying paper, paper towels, hand sanitizing lotions and even toilet tissue. 

Taisipic said she also had to buy new school uniforms this year, which cost about $120 per child.

“So, it’s kind of hard for parents with more than one kid,” she said.

Early starts and late buses

Erbuta Mejpon, of Inarajan, is worried about the early start time for high schools, some of which begin at 6:45 a.m.

“To me it’s too early," she said. She said her child has to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to the bus stop – waiting for the bus even before the sun rises.

“I’m scared for them to go in the dark,” Mejpon said.

The Department of Public Works, which has more than 170 public and private school bus routes, has a shortage of buses and bus drivers.

GDOE spokeswoman Baza said GDOE "supports later start times."  

A Dededo mom, Lucy Rapolla, said she hopes concerns from past years will be addressed this year.

In past years, her son would come home late because he had to wait for the bus.

“They say lack of busing,” she said.

When he does get home, he is often hungry, Rapolla said. She said the school meals are not sufficient in quality or quantity.

“The food is not enough, “she said.

Bullying

But a main concern, for many parents, is bullying.

“Even if you complain, they don’t take action. It has been going on for the past few years, but they never do anything,” Taisipic said.

Taisipic said she hopes this year, more action will be taken to address bullying.

“To make sure the kids are all in good hands, especially on school grounds,” she said.

Baza said GDOE has policies in place that prohibit bullying and in an effort to prevent bullying implements the "Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports framework, which teaches and promotes positive behaviors such as treating peers with respect."

As for school meals, Baza said they are "portioned to align with recommended nutritional guidelines according to age." All 41 GDOE schools provide breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost.