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DODEA-Pacific’s “Return to School Plan 2021” outlines the agency’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, which include vaccinations, masks, social distancing and sanitation procedures.
DODEA-Pacific’s “Return to School Plan 2021” outlines the agency’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, which include vaccinations, masks, social distancing and sanitation procedures. (Pixabay)

Defense Department schools on Guam will remain open despite a coronavirus surge that recently put an end to face-to-face learning for the U.S. territory’s off-base students.

Military children will continue learning in classrooms, at least while the island’s military health protection condition remains at Bravo, according to Joint Region Marianas and the Department of Defense Education Activity - Pacific Far East.

Bravo indicates the virus has a moderate risk of spreading.

“Across our country, our region, and the Pacific theater, cases of COVID-19 are climbing,” Rear Adm. Benjamin Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas, said in a news release Wednesday. “My team and I are closely monitoring the infection rate in the local DOD community and the DODEA-Guam schools and are prepared to implement more stringent mitigation measures should the need arise.”

U.S. bases in the region had 126 active cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus respiratory disease, as of Wednesday, with 84% of active-duty military personnel fully vaccinated, according to an email to Stars and Stripes from joint region spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Katie Koenig. The region includes Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base.

A DODEA spokesperson did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday.

DODEA-Pacific’s “Return to School Plan 2021” outlines the agency’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, which include vaccinations, masks, social distancing and sanitation procedures.

Schools would close and students would be taught by remote learning if the health protection condition level is raised to Charlie, one level below the most extreme condition, Delta, according to the school plan.

While DODEA schools will stay open, the remainder of the island’s schools are turning to remote learning in response to rising COVID-19 cases. Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero by executive order Friday mandated that all classes, from prekindergarten to 12th grade, must refrain from in-person education.

Guerrero said coronavirus cases increased by 300% and 35 people were hospitalized in the two weeks prior to Aug. 26.

The island had confirmed 10,740 COVID-19 infections and 150 deaths during the pandemic, according to Guam’s Joint Information Center. There were 181 cases and one death announced on Wednesday evening.

“I am receiving messages and calls concerning the fears and anxieties that our parents, teachers, and students are facing because of the increase in positive cases,” Guerrero said in a televised statement Friday. “I recognize that our children’s education is critical, but my concern for their protection comes first.”

Guam has vaccinated 80% of its eligible population, or more than 108,000 people, Guerrero wrote in last week’s executive order. She said the highly contagious delta variant, however, is complicating efforts to beat back the virus’ continuing spread.

“Despite our community’s best efforts to get vaccinated, the delta variant has proven to be a new and different enemy — it is not like the COVID of 2019 or 2020,” she said in her address.

“It is far more contagious and more harmful. While the vaccine won’t prevent you from getting or spreading the virus, it will help keep you out of the hospital.”

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