Schools working together to safely reopen school year

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Educational institutions in the CNMI are currently working together, with help of the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, to implement guidelines to safely accommodate students as the new school year rolls in to minimize risks in schools.

According to task force chair Warren Villagomez, they have ongoing talks with all CNMI educational institutions including private schools, the Public School System, and Northern Marianas College to come up with safety measures for the opening of campuses CNMI-wide.

“We start early on with the planning. We want to make sure that all parties are engaged, aware and in agreement as we safeguard the students and minimize COVID-19 risk,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference last week, Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero, Mt. Carmel president and representative of private schools, said that it is a challenge to come up with a standardized set of guidelines for all schools while allowing each to customize their plans in accordance with each school’s needs.

As part of their standard guidelines, social distancing rules will be strictly enforced and the temperatures of people entering the campuses will be checked, Deleon Guerrero said. “We are also looking at response procedures if there is a case within our respective schools,” he said.

For most private schools, Deleon Guerrero said, they are planning to implement a hybrid learning approach, which is a blend of face-to-face and online learning.

PSS and NMC have shared the same intent.

However, the implementation will depend on the community vulnerability level: a five-step color guide that the CNMI government uses to indicate the risk level of the CNMI community. It ranges from Red, which is the least safe level, to Green, which is the safest.

“As far as I know, most private schools are pursuing a hybrid approach with more face-to-face interaction targeted toward the younger kids because they need it,” Deleon Guerrero said. Online classes will be offered to older children because it is easier for them to engage in that kind of learning, he added.

Additionally, Deleon Guerrero said it would also be reasonable for private schools to require their employees to get tested.

Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said PSS is also working with the task force to ensure that teachers are tested for COVID-19. “We want to be assured that everyone is negative before entering the campus,” he said.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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