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Umatac residents descend upon capital

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - With one week until the new school year begins, Umatac residents filled the Guam Legislature on Tuesday morning, anxiously waiting for lawmakers to convene in a special session to act on Bill 257, which seeks to keep F.Q. Sanchez Elementary School open. Patience is wearing thin and frustrations are mounting for stakeholders who want answers about where students will attend classes next week. 

"I think there is a strategic move on certain senators as we were told they don't want to hear the bills in its entirety because it's an isolated situation," noted Umatac Mayor Dean Sanchez. He and dozens of other residents from the village filled the Legislature in Hagatna this morning for one single purpose, as he continued, "The only reason why we're here we want to keep the school to remain open. Why can't our lawmakers really come to terms and open the school and we'll deal with the problems as we go along?"

Stakeholders had anxiously been waiting for lawmakers to convene in a special session that had tentatively been scheduled for this morning, but the Appropriations Committee never turned in the committee report detailing the public hearing that was held on the legislation. "[We're] getting ready for school, so here we find that very upsetting that they decided to cancel the session," said the mayor. "We're hoping the session can happen tomorrow because time and money and people's efforts are going to waste – literally."

Governor Eddie Calvo on Monday made his intentions clear to sign the bill into law on the condition that the legislation went unchanged and did not include any riders. "Leave F.Q. Sanchez as its intended for on the bill, just F.Q. Sanchez - don't attach DOE's budget because if they do he'll veto the bill. That's where our hope is right now: that the Legislature will listen," Sanchez said.

Stakeholders will have to wait to see what action lawmakers take on Wednesday as Speaker Judi Won Pat called for session not just for Bill 257, but for the entire budget of the Department of Education.  "We don't budget per school, we give a lump sum to the prime of education, therefore giving the authority to the superintendent because to be able to decide how then now to best allocate monies for all the schools based on personnel, utilities, and contractual obligations. Things of that nature," she said.

Depending on what time the committee report on Bill 257 is submitted, session will either begin at 9 or 10 o'clock Wednesday morning.

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