GUAM STIMULUS FUNDS TO IMPROVE SCHOOLS

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At least half of education money for repairs

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 24, 2009) - At least half of the Guam Public School System's stimulus funding will be spent to improve and repair school facilities, Superintendent Nerissa Bretania-Shafer said yesterday.

Guam will receive about $108 million from the U.S. Department of Education as part of President Obama's plan to invigorate the struggling economy and boost education nationwide. Funds will be split between the school system, the University of Guam, Guam Community College and the governor.

GPSS will receive about $62 million in State Fiscal Stabilization Funding, Bretania-Shafer said. The governor must submit Guam's funding application by about August, she added.

The funding presents a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to improve schools, she said.

"We are always going to be able to apply for grants for curricular programs," she said. "For these (funds,) this is really where we will want to spend it, for capital improvement."

But before the school system can start pouring money into schools, it must know where to spend it, Bretania-Shafer said.

Assessment

First, the school system will hire experts to compile a list of everything that needs to be repaired or improved at all the campuses, she said. The federal government doesn't require the prioritization, Bretania-Shafer said it's the most logical thing to do.

Bretania-Shafer said the assessment would allow the school system to organize the long list of work that needs to be done, and then prioritize repairs for efficiency and effectiveness. GovGuam assessments that have already been done only examine individual schools and require only minimum standards allowed by law, she said.

"There are actually experts out there who can say, 'During the first year, here are your priorities and this is how much it is going to cost, approximately,'" Bretania-Shafer said. "To me, that is real important. Then it's organized. We have a multi-year plan that is the first step to a preventive maintenance effort."

Although stimulus funding must be spent in a window of a few years, Bretania-Shafer said she wasn't worried that the assessment would delay spending for too long.

Just a handful of people were able to assess UOG in two weeks, so a large company should be able study GPSS in a month or two, she said.

The school system has already begun a draft request-for-proposals for the assessment, Bretania-Shafer said.

Bretania-Shafer said almost all of the stimulus money will be spent inside public school campuses, but up to $5 million will be spent to upgrade the computer systems in the GPSS Central Office business office.

That office still depends on paper records more than it should, she said.

Funding

The school system also will receive another form of stimulus funding -- from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- which will provide an additional $12 million for public school programs.

Bretania-Shafer said some of that money will be used to open a magnet program for students who want to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics at George Washington High School.

UOG has offered to lend professors to enrich lessons at the school, she said.

The magnet program curriculum is expected to start during the 2010-2011 school year, but Bretania-Shafer didn't know how large the program would be at first.

Technology

The school system also will use stimulus funding to install Internet connections and about five computers in every classroom, Bretania-Shafer said.

"This is our only chance for us to ensure that every child in every classroom has access to the Internet and to technology," she said.

The new technology will coincide with a new electronic records program that will let parents review student's progress online, she said. Parents will even be able to check their children's daily attendance online, she said.

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