Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Feb. 3) - On Wednesday, Governor Felix Camacho announced that the government of Guam will sign a contract with Guam Educational Financing Foundation for the construction of four new public schools in the north, and the renovation of another northern school.

The schools will be built under a Municipal Leasing Plan. The government will lease the schools from the contractor, which will build and maintain the schools for a cost to GovGuam of $122 million over 20 years. Federal money for compact-impact reimbursement will be used to pay the annual cost of the lease.

The new northern schools are long overdue, as most schools in that region are very overcrowded. In the past, the government of Guam -- both elected officials and DOE administrations -- failed to adequately plan for growth as the populations of Dededo and Yigo expanded, the number of schools remained static.

According to DOE Superintendent Juan Flores, the new schools will allow the education department to reduce the population in existing northern schools. Students will be distributed between the old and new facilities, alleviating overcrowding.

"This is the first stage," Flores said, noting that the education department also is looking at the possibility of a similar municipal lease program that would allow for the refurbishment of old schools. In some cases, Flores said, that may mean partial or full replacement of older facilities, with a projected total cost of about $150 million.

Another important factor that must be addressed immediately is equipping and staffing the new schools. New campuses will mean a need for more administrators, teachers and other staff. New facilities also will require desks and chairs, chalkboards and other basic furniture and equipment.

Flores said the new schools can be staffed largely by existing personnel, with the addition of some new teachers and administrators. With an already strained budget, how will DOE hire the additional staff it will need and purchase needed equipment and supplies? How will it pay for increased utility costs?

It's great that GovGuam is finally addressing the school shortage in the north. But it's imperative that it does more than just erect buildings. It must have a workable, sensible plan in place to turn school buildings into effective and functional learning environments.

February 4, 2004

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