As the Guam Department of Education continues to finalize the details for students to return to the classroom next school year, one Guam Education Board member called for the Department of Public Works to take on a more active role in COVID-19 mitigation.
GEB board member Robert Crisostomo suggested that DPW bus drivers implement temperature checks as public school children are picked up at bus stops across the island.
Deputy Superintendent of Operations Erika Cruz, the liaison for GDOE in discussions with DPW, said there had been discussion on how bus drivers can help ensure safety.
“They do not take temperature checks, but they do require face masks. They were talking about safety concerns if the bus drivers are taking temperatures on the school bus. So we had that conversation with DPW that they won’t be able to take temperatures for students,” said Cruz.
The concern revolves around what protocol DPW would follow if a temperature check at the bus stop revealed a child had a fever.
Guam Federation of Teachers President Tim Fidenko pointed out that it could expose the department to potential liability.
“What if the kid does have a (high) temperature and can’t get on the bus, and we left them alone at the bus stop? I think there would be a huge liability with the day and age of pedophiles and everything going around,” said Fidenko.
Cruz said even if the students were sent home by bus drivers, there is no assurance that a child would return to their home and have adult supervision.
Superintendent Jon Fernandez said he also spoke with DPW.
“We take the temperature when they exit the buses at the schools, and so we are able to identify at that point. ... I discussed this with Public Works. They raised a good point. At this point, the bus ridership is so low that the distancing in and of itself looks to me like a good mitigation effort,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez said bus ridership is on average three to four children.
But as the department moves toward school reopening and an increased face-to-face student enrollment for the next school year, he said, the department would revisit the idea with Public Works.
DPW is aligning its protocols with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance.
As it stands, Public Works submitted protocols to the Department of Public Health and Social Services requiring students to wear face masks and practice social distancing on buses.
Fernandez said there might be a potential solution, but it would require further discussion.
“I think the solution would have to be more of a scan as you go in, and there’s not a manual scanning process in place. I know the lieutenant governor has been looking at the potential installation of cameras in buses to help with the contact tracing,” said Fernandez.
He said it might be along the lines of using the right equipment instead of having bus drivers taking temperatures.
Cruz said they encourage parents to screen their children before sending them off to catch the bus.