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UMS students head back to class

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It was back to class for more than 1,000 students displaced after the island's oldest public school was shutdown as a result of multiple health and safety violations, unlike their dilapidated digs in Barrigada. In Wildcat fashion, Untalan Middle School students roared into their new temporary campus in Tiyan.

"They were saying 'Wow!'," stated principal Jim Reyes of the student body's reaction to the temporary campus at Tiyan. He added that students were in awe, amazed at the simplest of things. "The floors are so white and 'the campus is so white', and talking about the walkways that they're very clean, not muddy, no mud in the area per se and so they were able to wear their nice shoes," he said of their comments.

It made for conditional they definitely weren't accustomed to in Barrigada. For several months staff and administrators have been asking for help. Take this interview last August, three days after the school year started, UMS assistant principal Valerie Kaipat said, "I really want to assure the parents that although we have water coming from the ceilings and walkways your kids are in class they're certified we're here and we're making the best of what we have."

But the best wasn't good enough. Months of inaction evidently by education officials pushed the problems at ums UMS the top of the to-do list for Governor Eddie Calvo. And after six days of the community pulling together, students are now in a safer and cleaner learning environment. Reys said, "It's really thanking the community at large for the outpour of support, watching everybody move equipment at maximum speed from the Untalan campus over tot he facility and it was overwhelming."

Today's first day back to class, according to Reyes, went rather smoothly. Aside from parents dropping off children through the wrong gate, the day started with an orientation and flag-raising ceremony, students were given a tour to familiarize them with areas like the nurse's office and counselor's office. Reyes adds teachers have already personalized classrooms putting up banners for their teams building pride within their new campus, saying, "Everything went by very well."

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