HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 13) – Five weeks after Supertyphoon Pongsona slammed into Guam, public school students today will return to their classrooms.

Most of the Island’s schools had been damaged or were temporary homes for thousands of people displaced by the Dec. 9 storm.

Eleven Department of Education schools are scheduled to open today and five schools tomorrow.

Education interim Superintendent Nerissa Bretania-Shafer said maintenance workers have been working around the clock throughout the past week to ensure schools are prepared to reopen. Drinking water will be provided to the schools.

More schools will resume classes on Wednesday and DOE officials will announce that list today or tomorrow. Luis P. Untalan Middle School in Barrigada and Jose L.G. Rios Middle School in Piti require additional repair work and were pulled off the list of schools tentatively scheduled to open on Wednesday, Bretania-Shafer said.

According to Guam Power Authority officials, power had been restored to 68.3 percent of the island as of last night.

GPA interim General Manager John Benavente said off-island help continues to arrive, which will help expedite the restoration efforts.

Sixteen line workers from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Consolidated Utilities Commission arrived yesterday, along with a barge with four bucket trucks and 200 wooden poles. Workers from the Federated States of Micronesia also have been helping out the past few weeks.

Benavente said he is expecting about seven more bucket trucks from California next week.

"Our target is to provide power to everybody within a month," Benavente said.

Power spokesman Art Perez said crews have reported wire theft and the power agency is asking customers for help.

"People are cutting wires in areas without power and that creates a significant delay in power restoration to that area," Perez said, adding power crews try to reuse undamaged lines.

Customers should call police if they see people who are not with the power agency taking power lines, he said.

Meanwhile, ten more wells are expected to be operating by next week, said Guam Waterworks Authority spokesman Patrick Lujan. As of yesterday, 81 out of 109 water wells were working.

The water agency is reminding residents to conserve water. The agency discontinued the water-shifting process, and has turned on all available valves. Because not all water wells are functioning, residents in elevated areas may experience water-pressure problems.

"We do expect, with the help of the community conserving water, that we will see gradual improvements," Lujan said. Officials asked residents on Friday to cut back on their water consumption by 20 percent.

January 13, 2003

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