School staff to decide on possible move over break - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

School staff to decide on possible move over break

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Although they're on break, Untalan Middle School students may get a Christmas present in the form of a temporary campus that isn't plagued with problems like leaking ceilings or flooding.  A meeting will be held on Friday to discuss a possible move to the CoreTech facility in Tiyan.

With numerous problems facing the Department of Education, especially with the condition of classrooms and campuses, officials are discussing the idea of moving Untalan Middle School temporarily to Tiyan to allow for renovations of the Barrigada campus that has been plagued with problems. DOE interim superintendent Taling Taitano said, "We are talking the possibility about moving Untalan to Tiyan has been discussed, but our concern is that we don't have money to fully renovate Untalan and that money that we have would be to fix the roof leaks."

Taitano says there is also enough funding to fully outfit science technology and math classrooms, but there's not enough to construct a brand new middle school. If Untalan is going to move, the interim superintendent says DOE will have to act fast. "We would recommend, but that would mean they would have to pull the trigger pretty quickly and make the decision pretty quickly and move the campus," she added.

It's an opportune time to make the move while students are on Christmas Break, but Untalan Middle School principal Jim Reyes admits it's a logistical nightmare trying to move an entire school within just a few days. "Tomorrow I intend to share what the possibilities are what the actions may be should we go into action in terms of the movement," he shared. Reyes says a school day doesn't pass by without some sort of safety issue being brought up. 

Untalan is the oldest standing school, and with 1,050 students he admits waiting until the beginning of the 2012-2013 School Year would be an easier transition. But Reyes he wants to hear from his staff before reporting back to the superintendent, noting, "Of course as a school we're only limited to what's provided to us from the Central Office, so I'm very excited if the move does happen that we occupy Tiyan. In the interim until then our Untalan campus is rebuilt or huge renovations occur."

JFK High School principal Ken Chargualaf is helping with logistics if the move is confirmed as he knows the ins and outs of the Tiyan facility and what is necessary to move equipment from one campus to another. CoreTech has really transformed that school from a naval barracks to a very functional and operational school facility. I believe that the Untalan students will benefit from that campus," he said.

CoreTech's chief financial officer Chit Bithan says the Tiyan property has been available for use by the Government of Guam since JFK moved to its new facility in Upper Tumon.  She says the facility is move-in ready and has been continuously maintained.  CoreTech is just waiting for the government's decision.  As we reported Wednesday, the Governor's Office couldn't provide any details on what exactly was being discussed as the CoreTech lease was under review.  Governor's chief of staff Frank Arriola, however, did say they were hopeful they'd have a resolution before Christmas.

While Untalan staffers are scheduled to meet Friday morning to discuss the possibility, according to the superintendent, the decision on the move may ultimately rests with the Guam Education Board.  Taitano says she believes the board, by law, makes the decision as to whether to close a campus and move it to another location. Board chair Francis Santos agrees and says a plan must be in place before such a move can happen.

Additionally he questions where the money will come from to pay for the collateral equipment and other expenses that would be associated with a temporary move from Barrigada to Tiyan.

Education Committee chairperson Speaker Judi Won Pat meanwhile supports the idea of moving educational facilities to the Tiyan facilities, telling KUAM News, "If the governor is able to find moneys elsewhere and still be able to continue to support the rest of the government than above this, the additional moneys needed, then it's definitely doable." Still, she is hoping that the government pursues the option to purchase the property instead of leasing it for millions each year.

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