By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) The education superintendent will be considering requests from parents who do not want to send their kids to school for fear of infection.
“I will take [this] up with my management team and the board and see what makes sense for our families,” Jon Fernandez told Kandit News regarding questions from parents on whether they would be in violation of the truancy laws if they decide not to send their kids to school.
Emergency management officials have confirmed that Dengue-infested zones (or the villages where patients confirmed to have Dengue infection reside) now include Mangilao, Dededo, Yigo, Ordot-Chalan Pago, Harmon, and Toto. The majority of the island’s schools are located in these villages.
Mr. Fernandez, unlike public health director Linda DeNorcey and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, is cancelling a trip of American Samoa this week. He is the chairman of the Regional Education Lab for the Pacific, and the meeting of this organization he leads was scheduled to be held in American Samoa.
“It’s important to do what we can to keep everyone informed about how GDOE is working to keep our schools safe and about what we can all do to prevent the spread of dengue fever on Guam,” Mr. Fernandez said regarding his reason for cancelling the trip.
Ms. DeNorcey left Guam this morning. Ms. Leon Guerrero is scheduled to leave Guam Thursday, September 26, and come back to the island October 11. The Governor’s Office has not responded as to whether Ms. Leon Guerrero will cancel her trip in light of the outcry for leadership in this growing crisis. However, governor’s director of policy Carlo Branch told Kandit that “The governor is and will continue to govern on Guam.”
JIC has been responsible for providing schools with information
Mr. Fernandez also took the opportunity to clarify shifting information as to whose responsibility it has been to inform the public and the schools community, amid growing frustration and confusion with the lack of or belated information so far:
“During an incidence of a communicable or reportable disease, Board policy 336.3 requires GDOE to provide information based on parameters set forth by DPHSS. GDOE standard operating procedure 1200-004 further specifies that DPHSS must authorize advisories or communications to parents regarding communicable diseases. SOP 1300-002 Emergency Response Plan Procedures that you refer to also specifies that, in situations where two or more more agencies are activated, the Joint Information Center takes the lead in providing public information. For this reason, GDOE has worked closely with DPHSS and the JIC to try and to encourage the release of information to the general public. We want to ensure that accurate and timely information is provided, and because GDOE is not the expert on dengue disease, we rely heavily on the advice and guidance of DPHSS and its experts. However, it is our position to get accurate information out as soon as possible and as widely as possible.
“Based on developments this past week, we believe that there is a need to provide as much information as possible to all members of the public so that we can all take measures to protect ourselves and especially our children from contracting dengue fever. For this reason, we proposed holding an information session on Monday evening at the Tiyan HQ for our parents and employees at OCPES and Agueda to provide them with the information we have and to answer any questions. We will have medical professionals on hand to deliver the presentation. We hope this will be the first of several sessions held by GDOE to address the concerns of our education stakeholders.”