Questions for the Education commissioner

Posted on Jan 26 2022

The Public School System has required all students to return from remote to in-person learning. There are legitimate health reasons to justify some students to continue remote learning.

This school year the CNMI PSS has been operating at half capacity and a shortened day. Presumably this was to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In the first week of December, PSS suspended their in-person learning and moved all students to remote learning coinciding with the governor’s executive order to have non-essential government workers work from home.

In January, PSS discontinued remote learning and ordered all students back to in-person learning with 100% capacity and a longer school day. There are serious concerns for many where there are serious health issues in the home where in-person learning can impose a greater health risk to the student or family. Certainly, increased capacity and longer time in confined proximity with others increases the chance of COVID spread. PSS has provided an in-person learning waiver for students in such situations.

Due to a serious health complication in our home, we applied for this waiver and provided a letter from our physician stating the reason for the request, and his advice to keep our student from in-person learning. To our shock and dismay, our request was denied with no explanation.

I have reached out to the Education commissioner and got no response. I pose my questions to the CNMI Education commissioner in this public forum in hopes that I will receive a response.

1. With double occupancy and longer school days, in what ways are the public schools safer now than they were the first of December when in-person learning was discontinued? What advice and from what sources provided the guidance to implement this changed policy?

2. What is the process for PSS reviewing medical waiver requests, and are medical waiver requests being reviewed or decided upon by medical personnel? If so, who are PSS’ medical advisors for medical waiver requests?

Duane Benson
Tanapag, Saipan

Duane Benson
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