Back to school after Yutu

U.S. Army Reserve soldiers with the 9th Mission Support Command and soldiers with the Guam Army National Guard present arms during the raising of the U.S. flag at Saipan Southern High School last Dec. 3, 2018. Students with the CNMI Public School System resumed classes after more than one month due to the impact of Super Typhoon Yutu in late October. (Contributed Photo)

With much of Saipan and Tinian’s schools still reeling from widespread damage, classes resumed this week, over a month after being forced into a standstill by Super Typhoon Yutu in late October.

Classes for the Northern Marianas College and some Public School System schools started Monday, despite some campuses having to relocate to other schools to resume classes.

NMC, whose As Terlaje campus was extensively damaged by the typhoon, was forced to share classrooms with students of Saipan Southern High School, which now operates only half-day.

“We’re deeply appreciative of PSS and Saipan Southern High School leadership and teachers, who have been extremely helpful as we resume our classes at their campus,” interim NMC president Frankie Eliptico told Saipan Tribune.

“I’m also proud of the staff and faculty who have been working hard these past few weeks to make sure the transition to SSHS and to other locations goes well,” said Eliptico. “These staff and faculty members care very deeply for our students and they want to make sure the students feel welcome at these new facilities.”

Franklin Santos, a junior at NMC taking up Liberal Arts and Natural Resource Management, said, “We are trying to get back on track as fast we can in order to finish our degree.”

He said that minor schedule adjustments were still ongoing. “We are still adjusting to our environment, and I just had my first class in Building B [at the new campus]. It turns out all of my classmates were present.”

Santos noted that one of his instructors told him that about 30 percent of the total student population went home to damaged homes.

“We have to accommodate the students—we have to help them physically and mentally,” Santos said, quoting his professor.

Angeline Orsini, a 21-year-old student pursuing an associate degree in social work, was excited to meet with her peers after a long period of separation.

“…What we were looking forward to most was interacting and engaging with other students,” she said.

Orsini is a member of Project PROA at NMC, an organization where students tutor, advise, and mentor other students.

“…It’s very exciting to get back on track [and] being back in [the college],” she said.

NMC student government vice president Shanthia Espinosa, a 21-year-old pursuing a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation, was excited “to see my classmates—it’s been a while.”

Espinosa was stationed near the SSHS entrance, where she and some NMC staff were giving out folders that contained a map of the SSHS campus that applied to NMC; a notebook; and some writing tools to get students started for the resumption of classes.

One instructor noted that, despite some minor hiccups, the student turnout on the first day was “excellent” and well beyond the expected turnout.

“The first day went really well,” NMC department chair for languages and humanities Sally Yntema told Saipan Tribune. “The classrooms have been great and the students are really eager to get back to school, so it made me feel more inspired and optimistic.”

“I believe the next two weeks would be really great for NMC as a community,” she added.

NMC personnel, according to student leadership coordinator Alexis Cabrera, are going all out to make students feel at home.

“…We understand that we are at a different campus, but we are doing our best to make the students feel as if they are back in NMC but just at a different location, [like] nothing else has changed and we are still the same services and the same people—just that our site is different,” Cabrera told Saipan Tribune. She was with Espinosa, giving out school supplies for students at the entrance of SSHS.

“No matter where we are, we would still continue to do the same things for our students,” Cabrera assured, adding that there would be a barbecue celebration for NMC students at the SSHS campus today.

US military welcomes PSS students

Several PSS students were welcomed back to school by Army Reserve soldiers with the 9th Mission Support Command, airmen with the 254th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers, the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron from the Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, and the CNMI PSS leadership on the first day of selected schools on Monday.

The schools that started classes Monday include the Garapan Elementary School, William S. Reyes Elementary School, Oleai Elementary School, Koblerville Elementary School, Dandan Middle School, Chacha Ocean View Middle School, Saipan Southern High School, Da’ok Academy, and Kagman High School.

The Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, Kagman Elementary School, San Vicente Elementary School, Francisco M. Sablan Middle School, Hopwood Middle School, Tanapag Middle School, Marianas High School, Early Head Start and the Head Start Program are scheduled to resume classes on Dec. 10, 2018.

“Many of our soldiers have been seen around our island assisting with the recovery efforts and what better way to welcome our students than by having our soldiers join our PSS staff welcome them back,” said PSS Commissioner Glenn Muna.

According to a statement from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 9th Mission Support Command, there are 450 service members assigned to the Joint Task Group-Saipan and the Task Force-West on Saipan.

“Students were excited to see our service members at their schools,” Muña said. “Some students have asked if these were the same service members that have been out in various villages helping with the debris removal. Students have shared that they are grateful for our service members.”

All in all, about 3,400 students are reported to have resumed classes Monday.

Both Northern Marianas College staff and student government welcomed students with refreshments and school supplies as classes temporarily resume at Saipan Southern High School. (Erwin Encinares)

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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