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JFK High School closed last year as unsafe

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 10, 2009) - Guam Public School System Superintendent Nerissa Bretania-Shafer said a recent response from the Guam Environmental Protection Agency is an important step toward putting John F. Kennedy High School students in Tiyan.

Bretania-Shafer had asked the agency to review a property owned by Core Tech International. The local government is currently negotiating a 10-year lease with Core Tech to open an interim JFK campus on the property.

Bretania-Shafer received a response on Monday.

The Guam EPA letter identifies five areas in Tiyan that have faced some sort of land-use restriction because they are or once were contaminated, but only one of the properties is within the area where the interim high school would be.

"This site is no longer a land-use control site and has been clear for unrestricted use," the letter states. Roland Gutierrez, a Guam EPA program manager, said the property already has been cleared for asbestos and lead.

The letter also recommends that Core Tech conduct additional testing to ensure the property soil doesn't contain too much of a termiticide that was once used on buildings in that area. Gutierrez said Core Tech wasn't required to do the additional tests, but they had already agreed.

The property has been cleared for the termiticide in the past, Gutierrez said.

John F. Kennedy High School was closed last summer after inspectors determined it was unsafe. Students spent the school year packed into double sessions at George Washington High School.

To avoid putting JFK students back at GW next year, the school system hopes to open an interim campus until a new school is finished. The government is negotiating a $60-million, 10-year lease with Core Tech, which owns property in Tiyan where JFK students could learn until their new school is complete.


Although George Bamba, Gov. Felix Camacho's chief of staff, said the contract was "official" after he signed it almost two weeks ago, it hasn't been released. A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Pacific Daily News was rejected by General Services Agency Chief Procurement Officer Claudia Acfalle, who said the contract wasn't final.

Bretania-Shafer said she was awaiting word on the Core Tech contract, too.

"We are now counting the days. I sent a letter to the governor last week requesting for closure in terms of the new JFK and also the interim," she said. "At the time that I sent it, there were 66 days before the beginning of the next school year. And so, we are needing every day that goes by."

Even if the interim campus is finished in time, the school system may not have enough desks and chairs to hold single sessions in Tiyan.

Last summer, equipment form the old JFK was moved to other schools, where some of it is still needed, she said. Also, a rainstorm destroyed some of the desks while they were being transferred in flatbed trucks, she said.

Chief Brodie

The school system had previously considered retrofitting Chief Brodie Memorial Elementary School to create an interim JFK campus, but Bretania-Shafer said yesterday the option is off the table.

She recently had a meeting with principals, architects, engineers and International Bridge Corp,. which has been chosen to build the new JFK. Together, they determined that an interim campus isn't feasible.

Bretania-Shafer said the JFK annex, which is a portion of the campus that wasn't closed, still needs work. If JFK students attend class at Chief Brodie, IBC wouldn't be able to fix the annex.

"It would delay the completion of the new JFK," she said.

Chief Brodie also wouldn't provide JFK students with a gym or showers and the cafeteria would be too small, she said.

Additional Facts


Guam Public School System Superintendent Nerissa Bretania-Shafer said there are four possibilities for where John F. Kennedy High School students could attend class when school resumes after summer vacation. Here are the possibilities, in order of desirability, according to Bretania-Shafer:

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