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Ready or not, public schools begin year

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - Today marked the first day of school for students attending public school.  Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretaina Underwood says the first day of school went smoothly, telling KUAM News, "For the most part, it has been a blessing. It has been very smooth for the schools and no one has contacted me yet to say there's an emergency."

But while the superintendent says there weren't any major issues today, JFK High School Principal Ken Chargualaf says his biggest problem was traffic. As a result, several buses arrived shortly after the bell rang for 1st period.  "We are quite concerned about the traffic outside the Tiyan campus," he said.  "Again, we are imploring the Department of Public Works to work very closely with the Airport on what they can do to provide access directly behind the Barrigada Post Office in that way, we have only the buses going on to the Tiyan facility. I'm willing to provide manpower."

To make matters worse, JFK noted some scheduling issues. Approximately 400 students encountered scheduling conflicts. Chargualaf says they're in the process of transferring into the power school system, which is completely online. 

In Mangilao it was the same problem at George Washington High School, where students were lining up outside the Counselor's Office for hours at a time hoping to get their schedules. School guidance counselor Margie Artero says there was a constant flow of students in her office, saying, "For some reason, we have students without schedules and we are working the system so that we can find out what's going on. Some students are coming out with no schedules only because they either enrolled late or they are in the process of getting enrolled and they're not in the system, so those are just one of our challenges."

This year, GW High has also adopted a block schedule where classes are 100 minutes long. Principal Begona Flores had said the new schedule is good for students because longer periods mean longer instructional time.

But according to one GW senior, the school administration says the schedule was poorly planned: the new bell schedule allows students to take their lunch break at 10am.  "I kind of like it because it's longer and we learn more," the student comments.  "But like lunch, that's like in the morning. Like too early - [it is] right after 1st period. We eat breakfast in the morning and then 1st period, we get out and eat lunch again. Most of us don't even eat because we're not hungry yet."

The approved schedule allows for students to take a short break at 12:35pm.

In the meantime, despite the issues at the high schools, Jose Rios Middle School principal Erika Cruz says things went well for the opening of the school year.  "We're fully staffed. We were able to hire all our teachers, our facilities look great," she stated.  "We had a few air conditioners that went down over the summer, but we're getting it fixed but all in all it's a great start and we're hoping the school year will be perfect for us."

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