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Not all enthused about new northern school

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - A town hall meeting is scheduled to be held this evening to discuss a bill that would create a new northern school for Guam. While most agree that its construction will help alleviate overcrowding, some disagree with plans outlined for the project. 

Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares is concerned about plans to build a new northern high school in Harmon. While many say there's a need to build one in light of overcrowding in the schools, Savares says lawmakers need to consider other circumstances.  "Of course, the urgency of us - the mayor, the Municipal Council - calling an urgent meeting to address this is because we want to hear concerns from our immediate community. If they're going to be using Harmon Loop Road, will they have access to and from the schools? That is a very heavily-trafficked area."

Speaker Judi Won Pat introduced Bill 413, which if passed into law, would authorize the government to enter into contracts for the financing, design, construction and long-term capital maintenance with private sector contractors which can provide long-term financing obtained through the use of qualified school construction bonds under American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants. It would allow the Legislature to provide with an RFP for the construction of the Marbo High School and would transfer the site identified in the RFP to a lot located in Harmon.

It would allow for this lot to be transferred from the land inventory of the Department of Parks & Recreation to the Department of Education.

Savares says safety of students should also be considered, adding, "We don't want it to be like when the skate park was built - they didn't address the crosswalks and the signalization and it wasn't until somebody died when they took care of that and there was an urgent need to have these signalizations installed."

She says several years ago, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study which determined that downwind from the Macheche Power Substation could affect students. At the end of the day, she says GovGuam shouldn't jump into building this school without addressing these concerns. While Savares has some issues of her own, the JFK community plans on speaking out tonight.

Justin Baldavino, the JFK Class of 2011 vice-president, asked, "Why are they going to build a new northern high school when they have JFK to build?"  And 2010 graduate Joseph Perez noted, "Why are they taking funds out of Public Law 29-114, and why are they funding for the new northern high school when they can't start on JFK?"

Another recent grad, Travis Mesa said, "You're wasting time already. We're out there protesting. It's like no one is answer us [sic], I guess.  And senior class president Neil Romero said simply, "Rebuild JFK. That's pretty much it. It's plain and simple. We've been saying it these passed two years and still - nothing."

A formal hearing on the bill will be held this Wednesday beginning at 9am at the Legislature's Public Hearing Room.

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