Share

For Puerto Rico’s Children, Finding A ‘Safe Place’ In The Few Schools That Are Open

Nora Ortiz Navarro, a amicable workman during Escuela Gaspar Vilá Mayans, leads students in exercises to assistance them understanding with highlight and feel calm.

Lauren Migaki/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Migaki/NPR

Nora Ortiz Navarro, a amicable workman during Escuela Gaspar Vilá Mayans, leads students in exercises to assistance them understanding with highlight and feel calm.

Lauren Migaki/NPR

Back-to-school deteriorate didn’t final prolonged this year in Puerto Rico. First Hurricane Irma and afterwards Maria forced schools to tighten and incited a lives of students and their families upside down.

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Julia Keleher says that of nation’s 1,113 open schools, 22 reopened final week and another 145 this week. They’re anticipating that a infancy will be open by Oct. 23. Some are still functioning as puncture shelters.

To get an thought of how children and teachers and relatives are coping, we visited dual opposite schools in San Juan final week. They’re among a propitious ones that have been means to open their doors and acquire students back.

Saint John’s School, an chosen private propagandize in Condado, San Juan

Down a corridor during Saint John’s School, Nina Mendez-Marti is training an art category for high propagandize students.

During a hurricane, her family’s roof tiles blew off. She lugged a terra cotta fragments to propagandize in bags. Then, she asked her students to paint them, and “to consider about that impulse when a whirly was coming.”

This chosen private school, with some-more than 800 students in preschool by 12th grades, came by a storms comparatively unscathed. Saint John’s, that costs adult to $12,000 a year, also has dual diesel generators to keep a lights on and a atmosphere conditioning running.

At an art category in Saint John’s School, high propagandize students were asked to paint roof tiles that were shop-worn in a storm.

Merrit Kennedy/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Merrit Kennedy/NPR

At an art category in Saint John’s School, high propagandize students were asked to paint roof tiles that were shop-worn in a storm.

Merrit Kennedy/NPR

And so only a week after Maria hit, a propagandize welcomed students back. Now, kids are eating lunch, chatting, personification residence games and perplexing to come to grips with what happened.

Lorraine Lago, a conduct of school, believes they were one of a initial schools here to reopen.

“The approach for us to assistance Puerto Rico redeem was to get adult and get going and arrange of lead a way,” she says. “I had my doubts, I’ll tell you: ‘Is this too soon? Are we pushing?’ But people indispensable to see any other.”

Not all of a students are back, yet — some have left a island and are receiving their lessons remotely.

Some of a comparison students who came behind in a initial week were put to work, Lago says, with an assignment to figure out a real-life math problem: “How are we going to devise when we open propagandize if we don’t have power? How prolonged is a diesel going to last?”

Another large plea is a miss of Internet access.

“We’re arrange of going old-school,” Lago says. “We’re doing, we know, paper, pencil projects.” And a propagandize is environment adult a Wi-Fi hotspot for those shaken graduating seniors requesting to college.

Beyond removing a educational year behind on track, though, Lago says teachers are unequivocally disturbed about their students and trauma.

“The highlight before a whirly for a small ones was unequivocally intense,” she explains. “I consider a teenagers reason a small some-more highlight now about, we know, what does this mean? Some are confronting a existence that life is frail.”

Outside, where her students’ terra cotta design is drying in a sun, decorating a tree, Nina Mendez-Marti points to a angled tile fragment. It’s embellished black, with white and pinkish splotches. It was flashy by one of her students who gifted a issue of a whirly from a roof of her house.

“She talked about a fact that she saw so many passed animals and passed trees and genocide around her,” says Mendez-Marti.

But, a clergyman adds, a pinkish and white splotches paint hope.

Escuela Gaspar Vila Mayans, a low-income open facile propagandize in Rio Piedras, San Juan

It’s early in a morning, and students are backing adult during Escuela Gaspar Vila Mayans, a open facile propagandize in a low-income area in Rio Piedras that customarily has about 200 kids.

PRESENTE!!!” about 40 kids scream on evidence — they’re a ones who are means to be present. More than 3 buliding of a tyro physique isn’t here. Communications are spotty, so some might not be wakeful that this propagandize has reopened.

Principal Rita Barreto says many kids and their families are still traffic with a storm’s devastation, after losing “almost everything,” she says, “the clothes, a furniture, a food.” For some students, even their homes.

The propagandize is open during mornings now, as of final Wednesday, and it’s not transparent when it will be behind to full capacity. It has water, though no power.

“This is a protected place,” Barreto tells a students. “We are going to have breakfast, we are going to have lunch, we are going to have fun activities only so that we can have fun.”

The principal says some kids told her it was their initial full dish given a storm.

Ortiz Navarro during Escuela Gaspar Vilá Mayans leads students in an activity. Using colorful shred cream, they are formulating images that make them feel ease or assistance them see beauty.

Lauren Migaki/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Migaki/NPR

Ortiz Navarro during Escuela Gaspar Vilá Mayans leads students in an activity. Using colorful shred cream, they are formulating images that make them feel ease or assistance them see beauty.

Lauren Migaki/NPR

On this morning, they’re dishing adult oatmeal and apple sauce. Kids lay around splendid immature tables. Parents and kids from other schools are also acquire to eat, and a leftovers will be handed out to aged members of a community.

Yeny Fernandez, who has 3 boys, is eating during a propagandize this morning. After Maria, “The small food we had left got eaten quickly; we didn’t have adequate food to give them,” she says. When she found out that a propagandize would open, her boys couldn’t nap since they were so excited.

In fact, Barreto says that while it was closed, a students reminded them of a coercion to open again. “They were only going around a propagandize and seeking and seeking and seeking again,” when propagandize would start.

Community members banded together to mislay tree branches and waste from a propagandize grounds.

Barreto shows us what used to be a first-grade classroom. It’s badly damaged, with portions of a roof left and some-more heaped in slimy piles on a floor. A doctrine is still created on a whiteboard. We don’t spend many time here.

The new first-grade classroom is flashy with colorful flags and a mobile. Handprint art is adult on a walls.

Hearts are renouned with a kindergarteners, while third-graders finger embellished some-more houses.

Lauren Migaki/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Lauren Migaki/NPR

Hearts are renouned with a kindergarteners, while third-graders finger embellished some-more houses.

Lauren Migaki/NPR

On this day, students are sketch cinema about how they gifted a hurricane. “It was raining so fast,” says 10-year-old Cristopher Cruz, as he shows a design that he drew of flooding in his building.

A few mins later, a school’s amicable worker, Nora Ortiz Navarro, is heading a organisation of courteous students in an practice about traffic with stress. She instructs them to solemnly breathe in and out. They inhale, lifting their arms, and exhale, obscure them again.

Then, a kids use shred cream to finger-paint things that they consider are beautiful, that they can concentration on during tough times. Hearts are renouned with a kindergarteners; third-graders are some-more into houses.

Is Ortiz Navarro, a amicable worker, disturbed about a time students have mislaid to a hurricanes.

The priority is creation certain they’re OK emotionally, she answers, adding that she believes a students are in some cases faring improved than a adults.

“The many critical aspect is a support,” she says. “Hearing them out, doing exercise, distracting their minds from what happened a few weeks ago, during slightest for a time being, while we assistance them get their mind set some-more loose in sequence to start studying.”

The belligerent is transparent here, though a trees were all though destroyed. Two weeks after a storm, Barreto points out a leaves that are solemnly starting to grow back.

“The many critical thing for me currently and tomorrow … is that they can come here, and they can only share, and if they wish to cry, they can cry. If they wish to only play, they can play,” she says.

“But it’s unequivocally critical for me that they found their place again.”