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DOE presents overcrowding options

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - More than two hours of discussion into what the Department of Education should do to resolve the overcrowding problem at George Washington High School today led to more questions from lawmakers about the agency's financial plans department-wide. Education officials say the only long-term solution would be to build another school.

"GW has 2,600 (students), how many teachers are there for the students?" asked PTA president John Wusstig. "How many aides do you have to take care of the students when they are not in class? Fourteen - that's even a bigger number. Why can't we shuffle some people so we can correct that?"

Incoming GW senior Franceska De Oro added, "Our school has long been neglected by the administration of DOE, the senators and the governor of Guam. This is apparent because everyday we walk into a school with peeling paint, unsanitary conditions, broken air conditioners, lack of basic resources, etc. year after year our overcrowding situation worsens."

Wusstig and De Oro are not happy with the learning environment at GW. De Oro along with more than 1,000 of her peers signed a petition on the last day of school listing concerns with overcrowding and more importantly with double-session. De Oro sat among education officials and lawmakers speaking against any option of a split-session. But it's an option Senator Ben Pangelinan questioned, as the number of students projected for the upcoming school year is about one hundred less than this past year.

"I'm just curious that you are not double-sessioning [sic] now, but you want to and you are putting this double-session discussion on the table, I don't understand," he stated. Begona Flores noted, "The 2,749 these are actual bodies enrolled at this time, not counting those that are going to register during the month of July until the school opens."

With the growing number anticipated, the first option presented to senators involves redistricting 700 students from the Mangilao campus to Southern High. The option would cost $375,000 plus repairs to the Santa Rita school. Although they have the space, principal James Petite admitted the facilities are not adequate to hold the additional students. The second option is double-session, which would cost some $2.7 million - mostly for personnel cost.  The third option being the least costly at around $190,000 would extend the school day, and the fourth option is to remain status quo with an increased budget for supplies and equipment at $400,000.

A fifth option was also discussed: Tiyan.

Although GovGuam informed core tech that it is terminating the lease for the interim jfk campus because of a lack of funds. Governor's chief of staff Frank Arriola said tiyan is not completely off the table, adding, "I believe that any contract can be subject to renegotiation and that will be my position and I think the driving force will be to ensure the children at the end of the day are taken care of, so I think governor Calvo would be progressive in that regard."

DOE officials will now further discuss the options presented to lawmakers today - the popular option being to extend the school day, as officials say that will make more room in the classrooms and decrease the student-to-teacher ratio.

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