With schools closed and a lot of free time suddenly in her hands, Simon Sanchez High School student Janine Sepulia has been reading, watching movies and exercising to keep herself busy.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses on island and the government remains partially shut down to reduce human contact, the high school senior is left guessing how the situation might impact graduation.

"A lot of people are really sad about that," Sepulia said. "It’s just something we all planned about for a long time – even prom and other things. But grad is like the one thing I really don’t want canceled."

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero ordered the closure of all public and private schools on March 16 as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. On Tuesday, she extended closures up to April 13.

In the wake of COVID-19, more than 130 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting over 80% of the world student population, according to UNESCO.

Several other countries, including the United States, have implemented localized school closures.

In the CNMI, the Public School System chose to close schools for the remainder of the year. The same might be possible for the Guam Department of Education, and it's no secret to students.

"The tea is ... that they might just cancel school," Sepulia said.

But there is no official decision yet on that or what the status for public school might be. More information may come this week.

"GDOE is working as a team of school administrators, teachers, (Guam Federation of Teachers) representatives, student leaders and stakeholders to discuss ways to provide educational opportunities for all our DOE students from grades K-12," said Guam Education Board Chairwoman Maria Gutierrez.

"We are preparing for extended closure, given the public health emergency, but we have not made any decision regarding closure for the rest of the year," she added.

In reference to distance learning amid the closure, Gutierrez said GDOE is very sensitive to students who do not have reliable internet access and the department is also considering students with disabilities to ensure they are also accommodated.

While GDOE and education board members are working on grading policies at all levels, for high school seniors like Sepulia, the focus is on grades and opportunities to earn credits.

"When we finalize our approach, we will make an official announcement to all GDOE stakeholders, the media and general public," Gutierrez said.

Like Sepulia, other students, both in private and public school, are trying to keep themselves busy and informed during the pandemic.

Sean Hipolito, a senior at Father Duenas Memorial School, said he "pretty much has Spotify on throughout the day." He also reads, does online work, keeps up with friends through text, watches shows and exercises 30 minutes every day.

He also constantly drinks water, washes his hands and tries to keep good hygiene as part of his effort to stay COVID-19-free.

"It's not that hard to keep clean," he said.

Matua Salas, a junior at George Washington High School, said the school closures have given him more time to work with his music.

He also practices social distancing and sanitizes everything he comes in contact with, "just in case."

(Scoop reporters Jan Malig-on and Ron Coloma contributed to this report.)


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