POSSIBLE SCHOOL DELAY IN GUAM WORRIES PARENTS

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After summer camps end, kids will need activities

By Brett Kelman

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 12, 2008) –Parents and summer camps are wondering how they will cope if the school year is delayed by as much as a month.

The Guam Education Policy Board is considering pushing back the start of the next school year from Aug. 12 to early September.

Annie Arevalo, a teacher and parent of two public school students, expects madness. Arevalo said she knows many parents who pay for day care in the summer and would have to tighten their budgets to pay for another month of supervision. She would have to plan activities to keep her kids entertained.

"Of course this is going to throw everyone into a total mess of chaos," she said. "You'll never know what kind of shuffling of their lives that parents would have to do in this situation."

School board Chairman Joe San Agustin proposed delaying the school year to give the school system time to solve mounting issues facing the schools. The Guam Public School System (GPSS) Health and Safety Task Force closed five schools because of deficiencies and will inspect more throughout June. Three new schools most likely won't have collateral equipment before the beginning of class.

In the face of the looming problems, GPSS interim Superintendent Wilfred Aflague said Tuesday he supported the plan to delay the start of school. GPSS and the board are investigating whether the school calendar can be changed, with cooperation from the Guam Federation of Teachers and the Legislature.

Arevalo said she isn't convinced the school delay is entirely necessary. She hoped the school system would search for less drastic alternatives -- such as rerouting students to schools that are prepared to hold classes so "we won't all have to suffer because some schools aren't ready."

San Agustin said the next step is for the board to determine how many schools will be ready to open on schedule. If enough are ready, the school calendar might split, he said, with some schools starting on time and others on delayed schedules.

'Do something now'

Agat Mayor Carol Tayama doubted an extra month would make a difference at the schools. Tayama has a grandson in public school.

"Whenever you prolong something, people just seem to procrastinate and wait until the last minute anyway. Let's just do something now," she said. "If we wait, I bet they are just going to sit back and wait because they have another month."

Tayama said she didn't feel school problems in Northern Guam should affect students in Agat -- the southern schools have paid their dues. Southern High School and Oceanview Middle School were both closed for several days this year, but improvements were made and both reopened. The task force since finished inspecting most southern schools and moved to the north.

The three new unfurnished schools are in Dededo.

"The three schools that aren't ready to open don't open them. But I don't think it should do anything to the schools down here in the south if we are ready," she said.

At least one board member agrees. On Tuesday, Peter Alecxis Ada said he didn't support delaying classes for the entire school system just to solve problems in the North. Instead, Ada said existing schools should "double up" until the new schools are ready for students.

Summer camps

Tayama said the summer camp at her office may have to end before classes begin if summer is extended. Parents would have to find an alternative to occupy their children.

"It took months to plan for this summer camp and to get all our speakers in line," she said. "Our summer camp will have to end when it's going to end. I don't know what the parents will do to accommodate these kids."

Tayama said many government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture and National Guard, signed up to fill students' days with instructional curriculum. Tayama wasn't sure if more volunteers could be found to fill the extra days.

Also, the camp is provided free of charge, excluding T-shirts and field trips. Tayama wasn't sure if the village could afford to supervise kids for another month.

Rudy Manglona, recreation coordinator of the Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Fun Camp, said his camp would extend if summer vacation is elongated, but he would need advance notice so activities could be planned.

"We just are going to have to wait and see what GPSS is deciding," he said. "We just don't know what to expect tomorrow. ... What would parents do if there (were no place) to put their kids? This is going to take a lot of planning."

Manglona said the camp would also face another shortage. About half of its volunteer counselors attend private schools and would have to return to classes before the camp ended. He said the camp would have to scramble to find replacements or be shorthanded.

Manglona also was curious how a belated school year would affect next summer.

San Agustin said -- if the school year is delayed -- next summer would be proportionately shorter. Christmas and Easter vacations would be unaffected. The 2009 school year should begin on a normal schedule, he said.

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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