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CoreTech purchase clears way for students

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It was a big day for education yesterday as Governor Eddie Calvo put pen to paper signing for the $57 million purchase of CoreTech in Tiyan. With the property and buildings now in GovGuam's hands, the 2,700 students who cram the George Washington High School campus will see relief as early as next school year and the Guahan Academy Charter School may continue operations on the Tiyan location as well.

With those issues addressed, Department of Education superintendent Jon Fernandez is hoping to keep the momentum.

With overcrowding to be addressed at GW and eviction successfully evaded for the 500 students who attend Guahan Academy Charter School, DOE superintendent Jon Fernandez is now soliciting for Governor Calvo's support for legislation that would prioritize school facilities.

In his letter addressed to Calvo on Monday, Fernandez specifically asks for support of Bills 225 and 226 introduced by Speaker Judi Won Pat and Senators Aline Yamashita and Tina Muna Barnes.

"One of them would take additional tax revenue to send to Simon Sanchez High School and the rest would take revenue from an expiring bond to address the needs of all our other schools and also to do a master facilities plan," he said.

According to studies conducted to doe schools in the last three years to review the physical condition of campuses, there's $90 million in deferred maintenance system wide - what Fernandez hopes may be addressed through a master facilities action plan that would prioritize facility needs.

Fernandez hopes this plan may be included and authorized through Bill 225, which already provides the financing, designing, building, and maintenance of a renovated or newly constructed Simon Sanchez High School.

"It's going to look at the demographic changes of our student population, it's going to look at the capacity of our current schools, and I also want to incorporate into that our instructional needs and the academic goals of our school system. Where we need technology for instance. Those are the improvements we're going to need to see at many of our schools," he said.

In addition, the plan, would establish preliminary budgets, implementation timelines based on funding availability from proposed bill 226, as well as other sources.

Hoping to have the master facilities plan in hand by September 1, DOE can effectively move forward with undertaking repairs and improvements.

Meanwhile, Fernandez reacts to yesterday's actions that benefit education. He notes that because the revised purchase agreement only includes existing buildings, construction of a new gym was excluded as well as construction of new DOE Central Offices.

"So if there's a delay or no opportunity to solve that, I know our elected officials both the governor and legislature will start to hear from our families, especially those who will be at the new high school," he said.

With his staff also anxious to move in to Tiyan from their dilapidated Hagatna offices, Fernandez is looking ahead hoping to consolidate other DOE offices that currently occupy school classrooms like those at Chief Brodie Elementary.

"So that was the point of the new headquarters that was proposed as part of this deal - it looks like we're just going to have to wait to see where everyone wants to go with that," he said.

Although she's currently off-island, Speaker Won Pat has also addressed Governor Calvo to do more for education. In her letter addressed today, she notes that the purchase of CoreTech in Yiyan is not enough to solve overcrowding at our island's schools.

Hoping to get more alternatives to alleviate overcrowding, she's scheduled to meet Fernandez when she returns in January to discuss solutions and looks forward to working with Calvo on the issues.

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