Education Task Force discusses UMS return - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Education Task Force discusses UMS return

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Just as fast as it took them to move in, the Wildcats from Untalan Middle School have quickly come to enjoy their temporary campus at the Core Tech facility in Tiyan. But discussions are underway to determine the fate of the campus.

Discussions to renovate the Barrigada school to possibly remaining at Tiyan are ongoing and today members of the Governor's Education Task Force outlined plans and challenges to ultimately determine what will happen to the Home of the Wildcats. It's been only a few weeks at the Tiyan campus, but the structural differences to its normal Barrigada home from wider walkways to a cleaner facility are receiving praise from the people who matter most - the students and teachers of Untalan Middle School.

"The teachers really love it, to say the least," said principal Jim Reyes. "The students enjoy it as well, they have all the facilities they can use during lunchtime and in the morning. There's more elbow space, so students can sort of spread themselves out a little, they're not crammed in." And although he is leading the UMS Return Action Team to address concerns and ideas in returning back to its campus, it was evident at today's meeting through teachers in attendance that remaining at the Tiyan campus is more favorable.

At the top of the Task Force's priority was to have UMS students and faculty return to Barrigada by School Year 2013-2014. Continued Reyes, "Our teachers want to stay because this in comparison to the older campus is like paradise, and because we're coming from that experience to this of course everyone wants to stay. But there are still other things to review and consider."

Such issues included the current facility from the regulatory agencies citations, physical structure, electrical problems and sewage and drainage concerns. For Education Task Force chairman and chief education liaison to the governor Vince Leon Guerrero, remaining at the Tiyan facility is a possibility. "A lot of it is cost consideration, a lot of it is this is a much larger space, there's lot of parking space and room to expand if need be. So it's one of the things for the Governor's Office to consider would be that we're currently on a lease and we might have to explore the potential of making it a lease to own," he said.

The committee discussed possibly remaining at the Tiyan campus and converting the Barrigada campus for other government use or as a charter school. Ultimately it came down to the fate of the Barrigada campus and whether they should demolish and rebuild the school from the ground up or do some major renovations costing nearly $6.7 million partially funded through money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The renovations include 12 new classrooms but without them would continue the overcrowding at UMS.

Although redistricting students was considered, it's a challenge that would impact schools already facing the same problem. Leon Guerrero said, "I think the challenge would be identifying additional property in the north where we know the population is shifting, understanding what the planned future developments are. The governor has several initiatives for low-income housing."

He added, "So we really need to be concerned by the impact on elementary, middle and high schools as we plan for those low-income housing."

Leon Guerrero meanwhile says he will take all suggestions from today's meeting and will recommend that to the overall Task Force to restructure its committees to address all these needs. And in order to support his teachers but be mindful of the community, Reyes will send out surveys to stakeholders on their comments to the fate of the campus and whether they should remain at Tiyan.

The next Untalan Middle School Return Action Committee meeting is set for Friday, February 24 at 9am.

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