The Public School System will reopen schools in September, with new protocols in place to comply with social distancing measures.
How? Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said the details are still being worked out.
He confirmed that the decision to reopen campuses in September is now concrete and it’s just a matter of ironing out the details. “We’re looking at a September opening but with a ‘new normal’ school schedule. The idea is there, but the details, we’re still ironing it out,” he said.
Although they would like to open schools later in the year, and despite wanting to wait for the COVID-19 threat to pass, Ada said that PSS risks losing federal grants if they do so. “I want to open in December, but if we do, we may stand to lose some grants so we have to open. Even if we offer the four-hour teaching time, at least the students are receiving some form of education,” he said.
Although the schedule for school year 2020-2021 hasn’t been finalized yet, PSS will implement morning and afternoon schedules. Additionally, PSS will only have 10 students per classroom as opposed to the initial 25 students. PSS is calling this “the new normal.”
“With the COVID-19 [restrictions] not being lifted, we still have to keep our social distance. Scheduling right now, we haven’t finalized it yet but I’m going to be meeting with the principals to discuss the necessary schedule to put in place for our elementary and middle schoolers. We have to make a whole new schedule, beginning from the start of the school day, breaks, lunch, how we’re going to enforce social distancing, how many students in each classroom. We cannot have 25 anymore, we will have only 10. Every other room needs to be shut down. It’s going to be a new normal,” he said.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, there were three plans that were on the table, one of which was reopening schools later than usual. Plan A was delaying the opening of the school year. Plan B, which was dependent on PSS receiving a budget of at least $19 million, would be four-day school weeks, half days, and five-hour pays for teachers, merging schools, and shifting as many courses online as possible. Plan C, which was dependent on PSS receiving a $36-million to $40-million budget, is opening schools on time and following last school year’s schedule.