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Sanchez still deemed "structurally sound"

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Following an assessment of Simon Sanchez High School over the weekend that deemed the school "structurally sound" and safe enough to keep doors open, the island's regulatory agencies present their findings. From holes in the floor to missing ceiling panels and intolerably hot classrooms, it's the reality for students and staff at the Home of the Sharks, who for months have vocalized concerns for their health and safety at the Yigo campus.

But what did the experts who assessed the school last Saturday see?

Department of Public Works director Carl Dominguez says there was only one red flag when his two civil engineers did a walkthough of the building last Saturday. "After inspecting they reported to me that they saw no structural deficiencies that are cause for alarm except what's called the roof parapet," he said. The parapet, he says, is cracked, and must be reviewed by a structural engineer as soon as possible.

Nonetheless, he contends the building is safe enough for school operations.

Meanwhile, Public Health weighs in. According to director James Gillan, there are no immediate threats at the school either, only minor deficiencies such as lack of toilet paper and soap in dispensers. "When we do the inspection on Monday, we will see. But as of the time of the inspection many of these items are very quickly and easily taken care of. We are hopeful that we will have a very positive report for you on Monday," he said.

As for fire safety, the school didn't do so hot. GFD Acting Fire Chief John Wusstig explained, saying, "The first item was the fire alarm panel which we were told newly installed. However it's showing trouble and there was no proof of certification so that's a big issue for us. The fire extinguishers were expired, not mounted, or obstructed a lot of use of extension cords throughout the school. A lot of emergency exits not working. Exit signs not posted, not readily visible."

But how about the air and water quality? Guam EPA administrator Eric Palacios says their only concern is cross connection of piping which causes water to lose chlorination. "Fortunately it's not at a level where there's a presence of coloform but its still a major concern at this point in time we're not sure how much longer it will take to potentially reach that threshold," he said.

With these findings, DOE has worked the week to make immediate repairs and will continue through the weekend before inspectors return on Monday morning for an inspection.

Earlier today, Speaker Judi Won Pat and Senators Tina Muna Barnes and Aline Yamashita introduced Bill 225 and 226. Both bills will provide funding for the renovation or the construction of a new Simon Sanchez High School as well as the rehabilitation of the 35 public schools excluding newly built schools.

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