Department Of Health Closes 12 Schools In Am. Samoa

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Unhealthy conditions force closure weeks before new school year

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Aug. 17, 2015) – Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga expressed his disappointment with directors who are not supportive of the mission behind the "Adopt a School Initiative" after the Department of Health cited and closed down 12 private and public schools, just weeks before the new school year kicks off. This was revealed at the Governor’s cabinet meeting last Friday at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium.

Lolo, while voicing his disappointment, pointed out that during a site visit last week, he was informed by a principal that a certain director stated that the federal grantors do not allow the usage of federal funds for the adopt a school program.

The governor did not specify which director or school, but stated "this did not sit well with me." He pointed out his cabinet members appeared to not be supportive of the program, "yet the mission behind it is for the children."

Governor Lolo then pointed out that there are 12 schools that have been cited by DOH, including the school that DOH itself had adopted, Coleman Pago Pago Elementary School.

Lolo pointed out the schools cited are Leone Midkiff, Pava’ia’i, Lupelele, Manulele Tausala Elementary School,Tafuna High School, Samoana High School, Fagasa Elementary, Pacific Horizon, South Pacific Academy, St Theresa’s and Peteli Academy.

He told his directors that complaining about this program will not help the situation and this initiative is their only way of helping both public and private schools.

Lolo noted that they cannot depend on Department of Public Works to do the work alone as they need assistance. He said that some of the directors have not even been to the school adopted by their department and that is a bad example to the staff. He then pleaded with the directors to attend to the assigned schools, next week.

The governor also instructed the DOH enforcement team to conduct assessments of the private schools, and if they cannot correct them, then the students should be attending the public schools.

One of the Governor’s Office staff, Malaki Timu pointed out that the only school that is up to par to DOH standards is Leone High School, which was adopted by ASTCA. He said ASTCA officials always make sure to stop by the school to check on its status and with the opening of the new school year, the school has just had a face lift with the new paint.

Other schools which Timu noted are in good condition are Nu’uuli Vocation Technical High School and SPICC.

(Samoa News should point out that SPICC is part of the Central District schools, which is set up in the governor’s original designation of the Adopt-a-School initiative as covered by DPW, DOH, DPS, Administrative Services, Budget Officer, EPA, Legal Affairs, Medical Services Authority, Public Library and DBAS, while NVTHS is part of the Mid-Western District schools covered by ASPA, Human Resources, Port Administration, DYWA, Arts Council, DMWR, ALJ, DHSS, Public Defender, Public Information Office, TAOA and the Visitors Bureau.)

Timu noted that Pavaiai has a lot of issues, with their restroom’s construction underway for almost a year, and a lot of damage to the school needing repairs.

DOH officials during their presentation told the cabinet that if by the start of the new school year the problems have not been fixed by the schools that are cited, they will remain closed — as DOH will not take the risk of exposing the students to unhealthy conditions.

BACKGROUND

The program, Adopt-a-School, was launched during the first year of the Lolo and Lemanu Administration. At the time, Lolo stated that the program is to build a culture of collaboration in the territory which will open doors of schools to the community to become major partners in the educational experience of the children.

Lolo wrote that the major partners would "include government entities, businesses and social entities" to "join as a Team that is uniquely designed to connect the organizations' energy and passion directly with the students and schools staff."

Participation in clean up days or beautification projects at the school and making financial and/or in kind donations that support the school’s beautification programs is also part of the initiative, according to the governor.

The teams of government entities set up in 2013, when the initiative was first implemented, are as follows:

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