Superintendent works on fixing up Home of the Sharks - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Superintendent works on fixing up Home of the Sharks

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It was earlier this month a group of Simon Sanchez High School seniors challenged the island's elected officials to Walk In The Shoes Of A Shark for a day.  Everyone from the lieutenant governor, the island's senators, and village mayors participated.

Waiting in the long lunch line, eating the cafeteria food and sitting in an uncomfortably hot classroom with no working air conditioning or windows. Following up on that visit, DOE superintendent Jon Fernandez returned to the Yigo campus, this time, with professionals to make assessments on just how bad the situation is.

Twelve years have passed since president and chief safety manager of Omega Safety Compliance Asia Pacific's Bill Shippey did an assessment of Simon Sanchez High School. Visiting today, this time, a parent of two students who attend the school, he's surprised to see not much has changed.

From exposed wiring to leaks in the ceiling and flooding, Shippey says it's regrettable Fernandez has inherited problems of the past. "It's unfortunate that he has to address issues that were addressed twelve years ago," he said. "So there are small things and there's very serious things that need to be addressed."

But Shippey isn't the only one who's assessing the school. A SODEXO facility capital action plan was conducted in 2010 to help guide DOE and the Guam Education Board prioritize their facility needs. According to the report, it would cost close to $7 million to fully renovate and repair infrastructure at the Yigo campus.

More recently from October through December of last year, the Army Corps of Engineers also did a study on DOE schools, with the exception of brand new facilities. On a scale of 0 to 5, Simon Sanchez scored the lowest, averaging 3.36 for overall score which includes assessments of the structure, exteriors, roofing, interior, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

Walking through the campus today, Fernandez is prepared to make immediate changes to ensure student and faculty health and safety. "These things take a lot of work. A lot of resources. What we were talking about this morning is we're trying to get through the issues one by one," he said.

First on the checklist - addressing classrooms with sweatbreaking temperatures as the school is scheduled for new A/C installations next month. "The bigger question is what is the future of Simon Sanchez and we don't know, we don't have an answer yet on what the ideal situation is," he said.

And there's already legislation that would help the old Yigo campus as Public Law 32-63 provides $7 million in real property taxes to fund the replacement or renovation of Simon Sanchez High. "The expectation is that the new property tax revenue, or the additional property tax revenue, would be coming in this school year or this fiscal year that's not clear yet because there's a lot of things that would have to happen," he said.

Also Bill 182, introduced by Senator Brant McCreadie, would provide another million dollars in business privilege tax bonds to replace or renovate the school.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to Governor Eddie Calvo recently, Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. suggests Calvo declare a state of emergency so GovGuam resources could be immediately mobilized to address the school.

After seeing the state of the campus today, Fernandez gives his own definition, saying, "I don't know what that means...a state of emergency. What I know is that there are issues that need to be addressed here at Simon Sanchez, so what we need to do is put some real action behind it - my state of emergency is that I came here, heard from the kids, walked around with the administrators, took my people through the building now we need to find resources."

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