The Guam Department of Education is 24 days away from meeting a local mandate to provide 180 days of instruction, but no decision has been made on whether a waiver will be sought from the Guam legislature.
Public Law 34-105 requires at least that many school days for GDOE students, broken down into 900 hours per year for elementary students and 1,260 hours per year for middle and high school students. According to Guam Service Learning, “That converts to 900 instructional hours, which equates to 54,000 minutes.”
GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said they haven’t requested a waiver yet, as the 180-day investigative warrant isn’t the only issue to be resolved.
There is also the mandate for service learning hours.
Public Law 28-41 recognizes the importance of service-learning and has made it a requirement for all high school students. Students must have accumulated 75 hours of service learning to graduate.
“We will soon have working sessions on service-learning mandates and training days,” Fernandez said.
To date, the GDOE and the Guam Education Board have discussed options for recovering reduced learning hours by extending the school day or school year.
But the options have not been carefully considered and would require the support of the Guam Federation of Teachers. The union said it would not support an extended school day, but would support an extended school year as long as teachers are properly compensated with a time-and-a-half salary.
GEB member Maria Gutierrez previously raised concerns about the violation of the mandate as she pushed for the return of face-to-face learning, which resumed on November 29. She indicated that this failure made the GDOE and the board liable to prosecution for inadequate education.
Gutierrez at the time also pointed out that a waiver of the mandate is not guaranteed.
In March 2020, GDOE was successful in obtaining a waiver from the Guam Legislature of the 180 instructional day requirement for the past school year.
As a result, GDOE students were advanced to the next level and high school students graduated without having to meet the required service-learning hours.
For the current school year, GDOE officials are optimistic that if a waiver is requested, the legislature will grant a reprieve.
“Any waivers would likely be requested after we’ve had a chance to discuss both issues and likely after our January board meeting,” Fernandez said.