* Over 400 teachers, 20 buses ready for 10K plus students
* 3 schools expect overcrowding in classrooms
Despite ongoing budget problems and other challenges being experienced by the Public School System, Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ph.D., assured yesterday that classes in 19 campuses, Head Start centers, and early intervention programs will resume today on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Sablan told Saipan Tribune that PSS expects to accommodate over 10,000 students when classes open.
She also disclosed that three schools will have some difficulties beginning today because they expect bigger class sizes due to a lack of teachers. These are Kagman Elementary School, which will have two grades in double sessions (5th and 6th grades) and the two biggest public schools, Marianas High School and Hopwood Junior High School.
“Right now, it appears that these three schools would really have some difficulties because we're not able to replace the vacant positions so they lack teachers and will accommodate very large class sizes beginning today,” said Sablan.
Saipan Tribune learned that both MHS and Hopwood expect about 1,400 enrollees this year, yet has only a little over 30 classroom teachers, resulting in a very high students-to-teachers ratio-up to more than 40 students per teacher.
\Due to the limited budget allocated it by the local government, PSS has suspended the hiring of personnel until a new budget is approved. PSS currently has only a little over 400 classroom teachers for their kindergarten and high school students.
Sablan earlier disclosed that PSS is short of 87 teachers this school year and vacant posts will only be filled once the fiscal year 2013 budget of $33 million is approved.
Other than these issues, Sablan said that “everybody is in good spirits” and teachers are aware that they're going to have a little bit more students than in past years.
During summer, teachers, and school administrators underwent a two-week leadership institute to better equip and prepare them for new school year.
Sablan said that school buses and vans are also set to transport students today.
“It's all about safety again. So we're reminding everyone to be on the lookout and really watch out for pedestrians. We do ask everybody's support and cooperation as we begin classes today with 10,000-plus kids,” she said.
Jack Sablan, acting PSS pupil transportation manager, said yesterday that 20 buses and 10 minivans for children with disabilities are ready to transport students.
Jack Sablan said that 16 buses with 66-seat capacity and eight minivans for special education students are assigned on Saipan. For Tinian and Rota schools, each island has two 66-seat capacity buses and one minivan each for children with disabilities.
The fleet, according to him, is a combination of new and old buses.
For Saipan alone, Sablan said two additional buses are “on standby” for any fleet that will experience mechanical trouble, while in operation. PSS has 20 bus drivers.
Sablan said drivers are due to report for work at 6:30am to get ready for their rollup at 6:40am. For elementary students, the first pickup is at 7am in time for their classes at 8am. For junior and high school students, first pickup is at 7:30am in time for classes at 8:30am.
According to Jack Sablan, if the new budget allows it, he will recommend hiring two more drivers. He also cited the convenience of using the state-of-the-art bus depot, which includes an in-house mechanic shop.
PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh also disclosed last week that the school breakfast and lunch program is set for the beginning of classes today.
In fact, the distribution of meals already started two weeks ago when private schools began classes. The school breakfast and lunch meal program is a federally funded program that also covers private schools and day care centers.
Thornburgh said the following are the number of meals expected to be served this year: for public schools, 11,000; private schools, 1,100; Head Start, 465; and day care centers, 200.