The deteriorating state of Southern High - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

The deteriorating state of Southern High

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It'll take $139 million to get the island's schools up to par. A Santa Rita school calls out to the island's leaders for help just in time for a bill that would use the second bond's proceeds to fund school repairs rather than tax refunds.

Southern High School principal James Petite hopes the 963 signatures on the petition he's sent to the island's leaders will get his school some attention as 57 classrooms are without air conditioning and he's had to call 911 due to fainting students and no full-time nurse on school grounds. The school has been plagued since its opening in 1997 with problems ranging from termite infestation, mold, low-water pressure, broken water pipes, and a field with a broken sewer pump. It finally looked like some work would be done to get the gymnasium up and running, but six months have passed and the contract for repairs sits in protest with the Office of the Public Auditor.

He said, "I think it's rather disgusting for one that students are subjected to this in our public school system, but what's also more reprehensible is that we can't seem to get this stuff done. I was allotted $8 million for ARRA funds and zero has been spent on this school to fix these facilities." He added, "I think there's a bigger problem here and I think the problem is that people aren't stepping up to the plate when it comes to this particular school, and I've heard my students and teachers say well they paid attention to Untalan Middle School; JFK had their school built, it took some time for this. Now I think it's Southern High's turn."

Chairperson of the Legislative Committee on Education Speaker Judi Won Pat defends that education is top priority contrary to the current condition of facilities. Last June the Department of Public Health shut down Simon Sanchez High School after their inspection yielded 20 repeat demerits. It was earlier this school year all classes were delayed two weeks due to poorly maintained cafeterias. On top of that, schools islandwide struggle with vandalism on a weekly basis.

"We give the money to the Department of Education to take care of all these things, but when something happens we get blamed for it when we're not the ones to carry those things out," said the speaker. The Legislature in the meantime plans on giving more money to DOE. Senator Ben Pangelinan introduced Bill 414, which would use proceeds from the second bond that's supposed to pay tax refunds to instead be used to fix Guam schools.

According to Guam Education Board chairperson Francis Santos with all of Guam's schools falling part they appreciate any help they can get. "So anywhere we can find money to begin repairs to the schools is a welcomed discussion in our community right now," he said. For now, Santos confirms that DOE interim superintendent Taling Taitano and governor's chief education advisor Vince Leon Guerrero are already working to put together a committee to prioritize school repairs.

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