GDOE mulls options to address learning loss

KEEPING A DISTANCE: Students at Untalan Middle School in Barrigada follow the 3-feet distance rule from each other during face-to- face learning on Monday. Dontana Keraskes/The Guam Daily Post

Since the beginning of the school year, 864 public students have failed to show up to school.

It took time and effort on the Guam Department of Education’s part to track down and make contact with the “no-show” students, but, it’s paid off.

Erika Cruz, deputy superintendent of operations in GDOE, said contact has been made with all 864 students.

Contact with these students' families confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic was the primary reason for students not showing up to school.

“Many of them are just a fear of catching COVID and wanting to be on hard copy," Cruz said. "They have families (whose) immune system is compromised. So they're afraid to actually go to school."

The hard copy model of learning, however, is no longer available. In-person instruction and online learning are the only options. GDOE is working closely with these families on enrolling the "no-show" students in remote learning and providing the necessary technology.

“They are keeping kids home because they're scared. The ones that I've been in contact with recently happened to be the elementary school parents and I think they're more concerned because of vaccine is not yet available for that age group,”  Superintendent Jon Fernandez said.

GDOE is hopeful that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will expand the COVID-19 vaccination soon to youth 5 to 11 years old.

“These families have told me that if there is a vaccine, they would definitely feel comfortable returning their child to school. But, because there's no vaccine, they don't feel as confident as they might, with an older child. So, we definitely hope that becomes the case, and there is a vaccine available to younger students, that will assist us in having the younger kids return,” Fernandez said.

GDOE is compiling the top three reasons why families chose not to send their children to school. That information will be available by next week.

GDOE officials noted that the truancy policy which governs student absences and legal action, remains suspended.

Although no legal action will be taken at this time, GDOE will continue to knock on students’ doors to make contact with families and provide accommodations to get students back in school.

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