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CONCEPTUALIZED and constructed as a state-of-the-art secondary school, at least $100 million was invested more than a decade ago to construct Southern High School in Santa Rita.
Although earlier named as the “jewel of the south,” some of its facilities, including the gym, fine arts auditorium and swimming pool, are now in a state of disrepair.
“And as you know, a lot of the talks had been [about this being] an opportunity for us to invest back in the facility, which has been broken for so many years – over a decade,” Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez said. “I wanted to come out here to see for myself the current state of the facility. It was opened before I actually left the island and so I said, 'I have to see it for myself.' I understand exactly what everyone has been talking about, about this lost opportunity,” he added.
Fernandez yesterday toured the campus to see the facilities that will be repaired soon, courtesy of funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Recently, Gov. Eddie Calvo signed the first contract, worth $ 3.6 million, to fix the badly mildewed and decaying fine arts auditorium.
The $3.6 million is part of a $7 million fund for the southern campus. The remaining funds will be used to repair other areas of the school, including the gym.
The construction of the auditorium will take 240 days to complete, Fernandez explained. Construction will commence once the department issues the notice to proceed with the project.
According to Fernandez, planning meetings with the facilities manager, contractors and the school have been conducted to lay out the repair process to ensure the project will be implemented accordingly.
“And I’m doing that because when we make this investment, we need to do it right. And we need to maintain this facility. We need to make sure that we fulfill the intent of making it a community asset not just for the school but for the entire community. That work needs to start now as well,” he emphasized.
“If we are going to involve our community and our broader community around the auditorium or around the gym, we got to do that now. We can’t wait until this project is finished,” he said.
Earlier, after the contract for the auditorium was signed, Southern High School Principal James Petitte indicated the auditorium can be “used after school on weekends by the community for performances, auditions and practices.”
In addition to these ARRA-funded projects, Southern High School is also busy renovating Building 5000, according to Robert Malay, GDOE deputy superintendent for Educational Support and Community Learning.
Building 5000 currently houses Southern High’s Freshmen Academy.
“The GDOE facility maintenance division is down here working on the classroom trying to get the air-conditioners and electrical system up and running – just making sure that everything is done to welcome the freshmen academy at Southern High,” Malay explained.
Malay said they have had assistance from the Guam Trades Academy, who a few months ago brought a crew of trainees from American Samoa to assist with building renovations.
He said Building 5000 will be opened in time for the opening of classes on Aug. 20.