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Full steam ahead to move UMS

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Students from Untalan Middle School are set to return to class on January 24 - not at their Barrigada campus though, but at the Core Tech facility in Tiyan. That's the Department of Education's plans, but it's all dependent on several factors.  

For months, the dilapidated conditions at UMS have been in the spotlight, so it came as no it was closed down last week after several inspections resulted in various safety and health violations. What did surprise Governor Eddie Calvo, however, was that members of the Guam Education Board along with the 31st Guam Legislature questioned and criticized his plans to move Untalan to Tiyan after they were both aware of the unsettling situation affecting over a thousand students and staff at UMS.

"And again, I'm appalled at some of the politics that have been played in something as basic as taking care of our kids," said the governor, "and I'm hoping now that the rhetoric would calm down with those folks and they can do their jobs and make things easier and in the end it will be good for our children and the students of Guam."

GEB chairman Francis Santos said, "I think obviously the governor was very upset as to the actions we took earlier during the board meeting."

In his weekly address, released last Friday instead of today, Governor Calvo was so upset he called for the resignations of GEB members who questioned the Administration's actions and those members who may believe the conditions at UMS are safe for students. Santos says he doesn't have any plans to resign, adding, "I think the governor is definitely calling me out and the rest of the board members, and I think obviously we need to address that. I hope to meet with the governor sometime this week to sit down and basically arrive at what we felt as a board should be done with Untalan and hopefully see that we are on the same page in regards to the safety of our students. It's just that there are issues other than just shutting the school down."

DOE deputy superintendent of educational support and community learning Robert Malay meanwhile says several factors must be met in order to achieve the move to Tiyan in an aggressive timeline, namely ensuring the facility is ready and that the MOA is signed by required parties. "Core Tech themselves are doing some work at the Tiyan facility to make sure the rooms and classrooms are ready for occupancy and simultaneously over at the Barrigada campus, principal [Jim] Reyes and his team are trying to make sure that they have all of the collateral equipment that is ready to be moved set to go," he stated.

Chief education liaison Vince Leon Guerrero says the MOA is 90 percent done and includes what collateral equipment is needed for the move and responsibilities for both Core Tech and DOE. Governor Calvo is confident they can pull the move off in a quick fashion, saying, "There's been a draft MOA already created and in fact it's been done several weeks ago, so it's a matter of that MOA moving through our legal team and with the Department of Education."

The governor added, "I know it's a legislative election year and if the ways and means chair, the oversight chairman on education can focus on working and helping the situation for our students rather than politics, I'm sure everything will go well."

While they wait on the board, Untalan will remain closed until further notice until they reopen in Tiyan. No one has moved into the Core Tech facility just yet, but UMS staff has already started tagging what collateral equipment will be moved to Tiyan. The school is seeking volunteers to help in what they plan as a two-day move.

Governor Calvo adds the Administration is working toward coordinating efforts with agencies under his purview to assist in the movement. Individuals who would like to volunteer or donate to assist the effort are asked to contact Andy Leon Guerrero at 888-4127 or at aleonguerrero@gdoe.net

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