Educators consider double session for GW


http://www.guampdn.com
Written by Oyaol Ngirairikl | 6:00 PM, May. 25, 2011

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Lots of students: Students gather in a hallway and along the walkway during their lunch break at George Washington High School in Mangilao, Tuesday. / Rick Cruz/Pacific Daily News/rmcruz@guampdn.com

As George Washington High School officials look at their increasing student population, Guam Education Department officials are considering double session to reduce the crowding at the school.

George Washington High has almost 2,700 students — more than any other high school on island. It serves students from several villages, including Barrigada, Mangilao, Sinajana and Agana Heights.

School officials also have noted that the graduating class consists of about 300 students and the incoming freshmen class is about 800 — which means an increase in student numbers.

“The school administration hasn’t determined what avenue it wants to take, but certainly going into a split session would be one way we can ease the crowded conditions,” Department of Education Superintendent Nerissa Bretania Underwood said.

Underwood said redistricting is no longer an option.

“That (option) was tied to us opening a new high school campus at Tiyan,” she said.

The superintendent, as well as Gov. Eddie Calvo and his education liaison, Vince Leon Guerrero, said the $4.5 million yearly rent wasn’t included in the fiscal 2011 or fiscal 2012 budgets.

The administration can opt out of extending the contract, but has to do it 120 days before the contract’s end.

That deadline is only about a week away, according to Leon Guerrero.

Failure to opt out before the 120-day mark could mean the administration would have to pay either a hefty penalty, or the full $4.5 million for another year — financial obligations the cash-strapped government can’t afford.

Not only does trying to manage such a large student population require a lot of manpower, it also poses more wear and tear on the school facility, which is more than 40 years old.

Safety, quality

Underwood said the goal would be to ensure safety, but noted education wouldn’t be sacrificed if it’s done properly.

For example, Underwood said, some students could go to class from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and others would attend classes from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. That schedule would maintain the approximately five hours of instructional time, but it’s unclear how it would affect the morning tutorial session with teachers, called GiWii, held from 7:45 to 8:15 a.m.

Underwood said that example would also mean the two groups would share the campus for more than an hour, but that is still more manageable than having the entire student population at the school for an entire day.

Double session is nothing new at the George Washington campus. About two years ago, students shared their campus with students from John F. Kennedy High School.

This situation is slightly different, however, because it would divide George Washington High students. Underwood said other schools have gone through similar scenarios, and that Simon Sanchez High School actually used the challenge to help build its freshman academy — an educational program that aims to help freshmen acclimate to high school — with success.

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