Fate Of Temporary School Campuses Rests On GovGuam

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Government must decide if it will purchase Tiyan property

By Dance Aoki

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 18, 2013) – The government of Guam has until the end of the month to tell CoreTech International whether it intends to buy CoreTech's Tiyan property, which currently is being used as a temporary campus for Untalan Middle School and for the Guahan Academy Charter School.

The charter school this month was asked to vacate the site because GovGuam never signed a lease for the buildings it is using, but the company later decided to allow the school to remain until Dec. 31, pending the government's decision about the property.

Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez yesterday sent the governor a letter, reminding him the public schools also will be affected by the decision.

The Department of Education (DOE) intends to use the Tiyan campus for both a new central high school to relieve the overpopulation at George Washington High School and a new location for DOE's central offices.

"I understand that you and the Attorney General have committed to addressing the lease as it pertains to the Guahan Academy Charter School no later than Dec. 31," Fernandez wrote to the governor.

"It is my hope and expectation that the 2,600 students and families who comprise the GWHS school community will also garner the same consideration," Fernandez said.

Fernandez told the governor it will be difficult to adequately plan for a new central high school without a timely resolution of the Tiyan agreement.

The government currently gives CoreTech $4.9 million in tax breaks for the use of the Tiyan campus. Untalan Middle School's students will continue to attend class there until their Barrigada campus is renovated.

Troy Torres, communications director for the governor, has said the administration wants the government to buy the Tiyan property.

GovGuam would pay $43.5 million to purchase the property, a former military barracks and office complex, according to Pacific Daily News files.

It's not clear how the price would change if the two buildings being used by the charter school are also included.

Gov. Eddie Calvo yesterday said the Office of the Attorney General is currently reviewing the Tiyan contract and he is concerned about the pace and speed that it is being reviewed.

"The responsibility of the Attorney General is to look at that contract, look it through to legality and form. If it's legal and if the form is correct, put a stamp of approval on it," Calvo said. "I'm hopeful we can move forward to getting this finalized so that we can have certainty for the Department of Education."

The Office of the Attorney General received the draft of the contract with CoreTech in August, but GovGuam was aware of the Dec. 31 deadline since January 2012, according to Torres.

Old buildings

Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, has said buying the decades-old Tiyan buildings isn't the best use of tax dollars.

"Instead of giving up money to purchase 50-year-old buildings, why not invest it into our schools," Pangelinan wrote in an email last week.

"Until we know the full details of this new amendment to the lease that the governor is once again negotiating, unless it includes the Right to Early Termination clause and a no purchase arrangement of the 50-year-old facility, I believe it would be a bad deal for the Department of Education as these funds that will be paid to buy 50-year-old buildings could be invested back into our schools on an annual basis," Pangelinan said.

Torres said buying the Tiyan property would be cheaper, per square foot, than any of the previous schools purchases.

"The Department of Education wants those buildings, there's a clear and present need right now," Calvo said.

Charter school

Last year, a public law allowed the government's lease with CoreTech to include buildings currently housing the charter school, along with the campus housing Untalan Middle School.

CoreTech has been allowing the charter school to operate in their Tiyan buildings rent-free and without a lease since August, when the school moved in.

Torres said the charter school, if the property is purchased by GovGuam, would be allowed to temporarily use the buildings at no cost, giving it time to find an alternative location.

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