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Sodexo completes public school review

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - The Department of Education has received the final Facility Action Plan Report from Sodexo. The company was hired to find out what repairs are critical in the island's public schools.  

The Sodexo team has spent the past several months surveying 36 public schools to ultimately ensure that it completely meets the requirements of the adequate public education act. The cost, Sodexo senior project manager Richard Bartley says, is estimated at $36 million. A lot of the issues he points out are similar to what the health and safety task force has been citing.

He said, "We have some damage but by in large they're in pretty good shape structurally but we just want to have that confirmed by some engineers. The biggest thing that we are really finding is roofing, there's a lot of problems with roofs leaking, the systems that are in place are old, they've outlived their usefulness and they need to be redone."

Bartley says in their 400-page report they include the critical needs for schools like Southern High, which is the first facility they paid a visit to. "The Fine Arts Building is a wonderful facility that is virtually going unused so we need to get that back online," he said.

He adds that the aged structures are in desperate need of upgrades, as they are not cost-efficient and lack security. "Another thing is most of these schools were built back when air conditioning was not available. So they built schools that have very large windows to gain maximum airflow, well when we air condition a building we want to limit that airflow, so when we air condition these older classrooms all of the windows leak cold air out and we really don't want to do that," he said.

Also in the report, Bartley says DOE needs to install a fire alarm system and upgrade its electrical systems. Sodexo also recommended that several buildings be completely demolished. "There's some of the other temporary structures throughout the school system, some smaller building that need to be replaced," he said.

While it is not a part of their plans, Bartley does admit that if doe were to start from scratch and build completely new facilities that it would cost some $600 million. The same thing is being said by DOE Facilities and Maintenance Manager Billy Cruz, who is excited to begin the projects, but admits he has limited resources.

He said, "We don't have enough staff of course that's always been our issue but we are going to have deal with what we have today."

While Bartley emphasizes the Guam Education Policy Board must first approve the report, he says his team is ready to start prioritizing the projects so that they can put out the contract bids. "We would like to do two projects this summer to hit schools in June, July and August and do as much as we can there and the following summer, as well."

You may be wondering just where the department plans on getting the funds for these much needed repairs and upgrades to its facilities, well DOE superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood tells KUAM that she will be using the ARRA funds for the capital improvement projects and when that money runs out, they plan to ask the legislature for the rest.

In the meantime, the Health and Safety Task Force has inspected nearly 20 schools this week. Officials say the ongoing problem is the lack of working air conditioning units.

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