Tamuning school lacks permits
by Krystal Paco
Guam - Opening up a school on Guam is no easy feat. Just ask International Bridge Corporation, which still has a ways to go before obtaining the final occupancy permit for the new John F. Kennedy High School. KUAM News has learned that for one private school that has been operating on Guam for the last four years, apparently it was as simple as buying a home and opening up its doors.
46 students have been attending Providence International Christian Academy, once located in Mangilao and now operating near the Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning. PICA administrator Paula Schmidt says the academy is a global model for other schools boasting individualized mastery-based learning, low teacher to student ratios, free tutoring and incentive programs to keep their students motivated. "We are about safety," she explained.
"I promise I wouldn't put children in harm's way, and I will tell you that our school is a terrific environment," she added. "If you visit the other public schools and all the other problems that we've been seeing in the newspaper, I think any parent would want to have their child in this environment."
But the school lacks the proper permits to be operating as a school. Department of Public Works deputy director Carl Dominguez confirms that PICA did not have the proper operating permits when it first opened in Mangilao, nor does it have the necessary permits needed for the school that is located in the Tamuning home that is its campus. "Before we moved, we spoke with the authorities and asked them 'Can this property be moved?', before we signed the lease, because it is a very expensive property," Schmidt said. "They didn't authorize us to have a school here, but they didn't say that it'd be a problem getting it approved."
But Dominguez says DPW issued the school a notice of violation on December 5 due to the lack of pre-occupancy and conditional use permits. Public Health's Division of Environmental Health also expressed concerns, as the school was issued a notice to obtain a sanitary permit back on December 16. If the school insists on continuing operations without the valid permits, both Public Health and DPW say they'll be forced to turn the matter over to the Attorney General's Office.
Pastor William Schmidt admits they need to get government approvals, telling KUAM News, "We're not trying to do anything underhanded; obviously, if we were trying to fly under the radar we wouldn't have a 4-x-8 sheet outside saying we're applying for conditional use. We just need permission to operate here at this location." He added, "I feel we've done due diligence - up to this point we've contacted all of our neighbors, we've had an open house, we're open to anybody who would like to come in and observe the school."
While the Schmidts contend they weren't aware of all the government regulations claiming there was simply a misunderstanding with the permitting process, there is a sign posted at the Tamuning school advising the public that they are seeking a conditional use permit from the Guam Land Use Commission to house a private school, even though they've already been operating one here for the last six months.
Other regulatory agency inspections are pending, as well.