06 June 2006
For the past two summers, it has taken an overwhelming outpouring of volunteer labor and donated supplies to get Guam's public schools ready for the next school year. The Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, parent-teacher organizations, businesses, military units, community groups and others donated their time and sweat to do minor repair jobs, clean up campuses, and put new coats of paint on schools.
This summer, the Guam Public School System is counting on the same kind of effort in order to get schools ready for students in just a few short months. "That is still the plan," said Sylvia Calvo, GPSS acting spokeswoman.
While it's wonderful that so many people from the community are willing to help out, the question is why is it necessary for them to do so? What if, for whatever reason, the school system doesn't get the needed level of volunteer work? What's the plan then?
The government of Guam is supposed to not only provide an education for the island's schoolchildren, it's also supposed to provide adequate facilities in which to teach them. All the toilets are supposed to flush, all classrooms are supposed to be air conditioned, all campuses are supposed to be clean and presentable.
The school system is proud to announce that it provided air conditioning to 125 of 222 classrooms from March 3 to May 1. That's just 56 percent -- an "F" in any school's book.
Would airline passengers be happy if air traffic controllers only landed 56 percent of all planes safely at the airport? Would you settle for your home only having running water or electricity 56 percent of the time?
Yes, things are much better now than they were a few years ago, but that shouldn't be our standard. Instead of are things better, the question we need to ask is, are things where they need to be? Are facilities at adequate levels? The answer is clearly "no."
Elected officials are quick to say that education is a priority of theirs, and of the government. But if it actually were a priority, we wouldn't need major volunteer efforts to get schools ready for the next school year.