Guam - The conditions at Unatlan Middle School are just one example of the state of education. An assessment conducted more than two years ago indicated more than $100 million in repairs is needed in all of the island's public schools, some of that to be paid in stimulus funds. One of the problems however, RFPs are under protest.
A whopping $140 million worth of work must be done to get the Department of Education's 40 school facilities up to standards, but less than half of that is available from capital improvement funding. According to DOE interim superintendent Taling Taitano, a Facilities Capital Action Plan completed in 2010 by Sodexo Services Guam, Inc. is helping the department prioritize its maintenance problems. The FCAP surveyed each of the schools for physical soundness of the structure, integrity of the building, functionality of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, compliance with current codes, and potential aesthetic improvements.
A portion of the report will be addressed with close to $60 million in ARRA funding. The problem: not one cent has been spent just yet. The way DOE has decided to spend the federal funding is by addressing problems by systems, for example roofing issues will be addressed in one bid and for all schools.
Taitano said, "We actually have opened the IFBs for roofing, which includes Untalan. Unfortunately, those bids are under protest and we're working with the OPA to schedule hearings on those."
Roofing isn't the only bid under protest. Repairs to the Southern High gym is also under appeal. Time is of the essence to get the work started for the ARRA funded CIPs, DOE has a September deadline to obligate all the stimulus money. During a roundtable last week public auditor Dores Flores Brooks said that although their attorney will be on military leave. Her office has issued an RFP for an on-call conflicts counsel. She further assured senators that the appeals will be addressed so that doe will not lose out on the federal funding.
In the meantime, Taitano is moving forward to put the money to use and fast. "The IFBs for the upgrades to the electrical systems and the fire alarms have also been opened. I believe we've also issued a notice to proceed working on developing the purchase orders related to that," she said.
Hopefully that too won't run into any problems like stakeholders Governor Eddie Calvo says the repairs to all schools can't afford any more delays like the situation involving UMS. "The problem and disconnect here is the pace that this administration myself and the Lt. Governor would like to see the Department of Education acting on improvements, and whether it's the use of ARRA funding money or moving forward in some of the general agreements that we had in the past. One of them of course was the move to Untalan Middle School," he said.