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Homestretch 'til charter school opens doors

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - After years of postponing their opening date, it's the homestretch until the island's first charter school opens its doors.       

"Everybody knows this is the first charter school we're on unchartered territory," said Guahan Academy Charter School program director Donna Dwiggins. And as she reports, GACS is well on its way to the start of classes on August 19th with the rest of the Department of Education.

The dividing walls for classrooms on the CoreTech facility are going up, school books have been purchased, and a full staff contracted to service the school's first 500 students.

Dwiggins says majority of the school's population are coming from DOE schools with only a handful from private schools and off-island.

What does this mean for DOE? Dwiggins says it's not taking away from doe's budget, but merely shifting the dollars from one school to another.

She said, "The money is not leaving public education. We are public education. We're just another face to public education. Just like GDOE we have the federal lunch program. Just like GDOE we have to go through the legislative budgeting process and the budget hearings."

And before they can present their FY2014 budget to members of the Guam Legislature next Friday, they'll first go through the Guam Academy Charter School Council on Thursday for review on an agreed $6,500 per pupil where it will then be forwarded to the Guam Education Board.

"The school district doesn't have control of our budget and they don't have approval of our budget. They simply have to convey it on the legislature and the Legislature obviously have control over the budgeting process," she said.

Dwiggins says this is the same dollar amount per pupil they presented in prior years, but saw a thousand dollar cut by lawmakers equating to only $5,500 per pupil to kickoff the upcoming school year.

"In resubmitting our budget that's the figure we came back with. It's a more accurate figure of covering the costs at the building level in terms of what are the operation costs at the building level. If you look at the budget that was approved last year and the average per pupil cost that comes out of that in terms of operational costs at the building level that's in line with what GDOE is getting for elementary school students," she said.

She admits - it's been a juggling act as they project a 100% growth for School Year 2014-2015, saying, "We have two things going on right now. We're actively doing everything to get the doors open and everything in place for the school year this year but we haven't stopped the discussion about where we go in the future."

GACS employees are slated to report to duty on July 29th for staff development until the start of classes mid-August.

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