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Wildcats look forward to heading back to class

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - With the help of hundreds of volunteers and a caring community, Untalan Middle School's temporary campus in Tiyan has received clearances from multiple regulatory agencies, setting the stage for students to return to a safe and clean campus. After missing a total of six instructional days after their Barrigada campus was closed as a result of safety and health violations, it looks likely that the Wildcats will be headed back to class tomorrow morning.

After several challenges and hurdles to make the speedy move, it looked like the final requirements to open its interim campus looked promising.

The rooms are fully lit and air conditioned and the desks and books are set in each classroom - now it just awaits more than a thousand students to fill its hallways. However, the road to get there wasn't the easiest but it was rather quick as regulatory officials along with required documents were set to be completed today to solidify the opening date of the school.

Starting early this morning, the Guam Fire Department conditionally approved the interim campus pending fire alarm installation. According to GFD public information office Lieutenant Ed Artero, a Notice of Hazard/Fire Watch was imposed, pending completion of fire alarm with other discrepancies corrected. The Department of Public Health meanwhile conducted its pre-operation inspection giving the green light pending a sanitary permit.

According to Public Health environmental health specialist Marilou Bumagat, the school can open once the permit has been paid for and will return for an unannounced regular inspection to issue a letter grade and whether the campus will remain open. "Because they just opened so maybe we won't come back yet, our priority now is to do inspection at other schools because this just opened so everything is still in good condition so maybe it's not our priority to do regular inspection on this school," she explained.

Public Health officials only noted minor issues from the nurse's office sink to buildings that weren't being occupied for classes. Public Works meanwhile inspected the campus last week looking at its structural integrity along with the EPA conducting water tests.

The required memorandum of agreement meanwhile was signed by Guam Education Board chairman Francis Santos, along with the governor's chief of staff.

Chief Education Liason Vince Leon Guerrero says the MOA awaits the final ink from the Attorney General Office's, Core Tech and the governor himself. He says the information in the MOA is similar to a sublease agreement and addresses concerns raised by the AG, but none of the information should come as a surprise. "So he suggested that we do something that would delineate and define what the areas of responsibilities so that way there's no question of who's in charge of what," he stated.

The MOA also contains an attachment of the maintenance agreement, list of collateral equipment and a sketch of the property. Acting Deputy Superintendent Robert Malay was elated by today's development after nearly 200 volunteers from teachers to professionals in the community came out on Saturday to help complete the move from the Barrigada campus. He says the turnout in the past few days was a good indicator of what people can do when they work together, noting, "Everybody was supportive from the Governor's Office to the Education Board to the Department of Education to Core Tech International to the administrative team as well as the faculty staff of Untalan Middle, the Barrigada mayor, the Mangilao mayor, everybody has had some part in making this happen in such a short period of time."

The first bell is set to ring at 8:30 Tuesday morning with UMS intending to use the first hour of the day as a student orientation to help students familiarize themselves with the layout of the campus. Students are advised to look out for homeroom teachers who will advise them of their classrooms and schedules.

As part of his Weekly Address, Governor Calvo recognized the many volunteers who have been helping with the Untalan Middle School relocation project, saying, "Moving equipment from one school campus to another isn't an easy job.  I can't tell you how humbled i am to know that there are people in this community who will give their labor, sweat and time.  They're not doing it for pay or recognition...they're doing it for our children."

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