GEB approves UMS move - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GEB approves UMS move

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Untalan Middle School will move to the Core Tech Facility in Tiyan as voted unanimously by the Guam Education Board today contingent on a memorandum of agreement signed between the Governor's Office and Education Board inclusive of all collateral equipment. But the question now remains - when will it happen?

The Wildcats will be moving to Tiyan but its hard to tell when as the proposed date of the move was under debate at today's Guam Education Board meeting where concerns over assurances and safety were raised by the Calvo Administration and the board itself. There's no question that the staff and over 1,000 students at UMS are dealing with poor conditions and that something must be done.

At today's board meeting, it became a debate as to whether the proposed interim campus at Tiyan would be ready should they move in this month or over the summer and where would funding come from to provide the necessary renovations for the Barrigada campus.

GEB chairman Francis Santos agreed that safety is a concern, but wanted more clarification on an exit and entry strategy for the school so that students don't miss out on instructional days.

Santos told KUAM News, "The board's concerns is time lines certainly because we don't want to be up against violating the law of the required number of days for kids to be in school, and the second one is if the move is made to Tiyan what about the collateral equipment that has to be in the school so when the students from Untalan get there the school is functional."

Assurance became the recurring theme as fellow board member Barry Mead noted his criticism of the move because should any problem occur after the move or with Core Tech, the blame would rest on the board's shoulders. He says a memorandum of understanding is paramount this time around with parties involved due to previous experiences with JFK High School occupying the facility and where it's at today.

"And another backup to that is JFK isn't done yet and the reason for that is there's no mitigating penalties liquidated in having charge to the government to that construction company and they have to answer to no one in the Government of Guam," he said.

However, some have questioned whether the move is in fact necessary as the RFP for the renovation included language that all projects would be performed without disruption to the regular school year calendar and whether the exclusion of the option to terminate the lease in the new amended lease agreement was a smart decision.

Interim superintendent of DOE Taling Taitano said, "I agree that the move makes sense and that we should have all the proper planning to make sure everything is in place." She added, "The concern that we have is that we find additional money for the renovation of the school; if we we're only to work with the money that has currently been identified, the plan was to work around the school day making it unnecessary to move."

Although there is no money to foot the bill for complete renovations at Untalan, the Administration did assure that it was at the top of Governor Eddie Calvo's priority list. While adding most of the new collateral equipment will go back to the Untalan campus, the school is operating under a sense of urgency and the move must be done sooner than later. "We're, of course, excited for the students that the board took an extra step to moving them out of the Untalan facility," said Troy Torres, director of communication at Adelup. "But we're also disappointed because we thought that we impressed upon the board enough that time is of the essence so you don't want to wait for another student to get hurt."

We should note it was just this week when a student slipped and hit her head at Untalan Middle School and had to seek medical treatment due to the poor conditions of the school. The Governor's Office meanwhile is working with their legal counsel along with DOE's legal counsel on the MOA. Torres adds the January 20 proposed closing date for Untalan to move that weekend may not be met considering the time constraints the board has placed on the decision.

The board needs to put out a five date notice for another special meeting to make the decision.

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