Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said the Public School System is currently in the mindset of making decisions and plans like there is already a COVID-19 outbreak in the CNMI.
Ada said this following a special board meeting last Tuesday where he and his team presented a COVID-19 contingency plan to the Board of Education. He said the plan was created with the help of PSS principals and vice principals.
“I have directed the entire team to have a mindset of ‘treat this as if we have at least one case of COVID-19 on island,’” he said.
Part of the contingency plan was suspending classes up until March 31 to give students and PSS staff who recently went off island time to self-quarantine in case they were infected.
A total of 279 students and teachers went off-island business trips from Feb. 27 to March 15, 2020.
“Majority of these travelers came from Guam,” Ada said. There are now 12 positive coronavirus cases in Guam.
Ada has asked these students and teachers to inform their school administration about their health status. School administrators will then coordinate with the Public Health and Emergency Preparation team if any of the students or teachers have COVID-19-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, which may occur two to 14 days after exposure.
“We agreed to [resume classes on] March 31. However, this may change as well because COVID-19 information changes every day. In the event that we do have the virus on island, we will make another announcement,” he said.
Also part of the contingency plan is distance education but Ada asked the BOE to give his team more time or until March 30 to explore more online learning resources.
He said PSS has students, especially those in the special education program, that require one-on-one accommodations. “It may require bus transportation so we can bring these students to the sites where the equipment and the resources are,” he said.
Dr. Yvonne Pangelinan, the associate commissioner for Student Support Services, said that PSS-Instruction Technology director Dr. Bobby Cruz and distance education program manager Lorraine Catienza are convening a group of e-teachers to look at the possibility of online learning for all PSS students.
“We need to have the proper infrastructure to do this equitably and to adhere to privacy and security standards,” she said, adding that some students may not have the required devices or internet service at home.