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Rays of Hope issue may go to court

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - With news that the Rays of Hope Home may not be ready to take in students come August, some fear these students won't be able to transition into regular schools. If something isn't done, the issue may even go to court.

Efforts to repair and renovate the Tamuning facility have been slow. Although a design contract has been awarded for the home, it doesn't look like repairs will be made before the end of the summer.  The design phase will take 30 days and then the Department of Public Works will have to draft another request for proposal for the actual repairs that need to be made to the home.

In the meantime, the children who were attending classes there have been sent to the JFK Annex temporarily. Guam Legal Services Executive Director Harold Parker says the question is 'where will these kids go?'  He told KUAM News, "Right now, the answer seems to be 'We don't care, we're just going to put them in just public schools, separated and on their own and if the schools aren't ready for them. Well, that's tough,' that seems to be the attitude and it's disappointing because these kids are going to be suffering as a result."

Mental Health officials have said they intended to send the kids to home schools after the summer, but concerns have been raised that the Department of Education is not prepared for that situation. Parker says he feels as if Mental Health is trying to get these kids out of its purview. He says the problem is that some of these students won't be able to transition well. He says if nothing is being done, the issue may go to court.

"We're looking at all sorts of possibilities," he added. "I don't know if litigation is going to occur, but it could and there may be further response before August. I know there will be another Systems of Care meeting in August, but it would probably be too late to deal with this issue."

Mental Health Deputy Director Elisabeth Cruz tells KUAM News today that she will be meeting with DOE sometime this month to discuss the possibility of extending the use of the JFK Annex in the event repairs aren't made on time. She says the problem is that DOE is still unsure when ground will be broken for the new JFK High School campus.

If that happens, Mental Health and DOE would need to find another place to house these students. In the meantime, Cruz couldn't say exactly when repairs to the home will be completed.

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