Hagåtña, Guam – In an effort to support timely school openings, the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) is requesting an accurate list of campuses ready for public health inspections. In a letter addressed to Guam Department of Education (GDOE) Superintendent Dr. Erik Swanson today, DPHSS Director Art San Agustin explained that GDOE leadership is providing conflicting guidance on the state of school campuses.
As announced by GDOE, schools will be opening in phases. During a July 18 oversight, GDOE reported that campuses categorized in Phase I were ready for public health inspections. Days later, on July 21, the regulatory agency was advised otherwise when GDOE leadership stated it would be another two weeks before Phase I schools would be ready for inspection.
Effective July 24, Public Health was prepared to deploy three teams to conduct inspections of three different schools concurrently. To allocate resources most effectively, DPHSS plans to inspect schools based on guidance from GDOE. This plan follows Public Law 37-4 which mandates that DPHSS inspect all GDOE schools prior to renewing their sanitary permits.
P.L. 37-4 also limits the circumstances in which DPHSS may grant variances to public schools. Essentially, a variance can NOT be given to a school if it means that variance will allow the school to pass inspection. During a public hearing on this measure, Public Health officials warned that such legislation would force the closure of schools and prevent timely openings for the new school year. The bill was authored by Senator Chris Barnett, the oversight chair for education.
The Leon Guerrero-Tenorio Administration maintains that a legislative remedy is necessary to correct P.L. 37-4 which paralyzes our schools, rendering them unable to open for the upcoming school year.
To support school openings, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero activated the Guam National Guard to conduct debris cleanups at all of the island’s 41 public schools. That mission was completed on July 20. The following day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with FEMA and the Office of the Governor, launched its school debris removal program to haul sorted debris off campuses. This effort is ongoing.