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Changes for JP Torres ahead

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Over the past year Department of Education superintendent Jon Fernandez has been working on a plan to help Guam students who may have fallen off track-to get back on track.

Changes are ahead for J.P. Torres Alternative School which serves about 200 secondary students at any given time. Department of Education superintendent Jon Fernandez said, "In the past school principals have referred students down there for a variety of reasons whether its drug or alcohol violation and that includes cigarettes or chewing tobacco up to more serious drugs as well insubordination maybe school violence rioting."

Fernandez adds once they are there the intent is to rehabilitate and return them to their home school as functional students in terms of academics and assimilation to the school environment without any further disruption. "My concern in the past has been that principals sometimes use that school to send students away to send a message to them about their behavior and without much concern about whether or not they return back fully rehabilitated and able to succeed," he added.

Fernandez says he is afraid to have a school where we risk losing students having them further disengaged, having their behavior contribute to falling behind academically, making it hard for them to get back on track and ultimately drop out and become an issue for the rest of the community. He says he has been working with the alternative school over the past year, adding, "What I would like to do at the very minimum using some of our federal support is to provide an alternative program up north to allow some of our high school students and our middle school students who are referred to the program to be able to be serviced up north."

Right now he says there is a growing number of students up north having to be transported to the southern campus making it difficult for some families to take their children to school. Fernandez says they also have a number of recommendations for the alternative school that will be implemented over the coming year.

He said, "This comes as a result of an education response team that I assigned there earlier this school year composed of four middle school principals and our student services administrator to go down there and give them a third party assessment of what's going on at the school and how they can improve their services to the students and outcomes for the students."

One big issue was that some students cumulative folders do not accompany them to J.P. making it difficult to understand the child's history. Fernandez says he looks forward to the improvements as the alternative programs are not meant to be a punishment but a different way for students to get on track for graduation.  

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