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The Monumental Task Of Reopening Puerto Rico’s Schools

In a issue of Hurricane Maria, residents accommodate with FEMA member to record forms for sovereign assist during a Jose de Diego Elementary School in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 2.

Carlos Giusti/AP


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Carlos Giusti/AP

In a issue of Hurricane Maria, residents accommodate with FEMA member to record forms for sovereign assist during a Jose de Diego Elementary School in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 2.

Carlos Giusti/AP

The schools in Puerto Rico are confronting large challenges.

All a open schools are yet electricity, and some-more than half don’t have water. More than 100 are still functioning as shelters.

But Puerto Rico’s secretary of education, Julia Keleher, tells us that a schools that are open are portion as tie points for communities. They’ve turn a place where children and their families can eat a prohibited dish and get some romantic support, too.

On Wednesday, we reported on dual schools that have reopened — one open and one private.

And this week we spoke with Keleher by phone about a hurdles students and educators are facing. Our talk has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

Broadly, can we give us an refurbish on a state of open schools in Puerto Rico?

We have 345,000 students and 1,113 schools. Last week, we non-stop 22. This week we’re opening another 145.

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

And then, I’ve identified 227 that, when we mislay a debris, we can open.

So we’ve been creation tiny gains, streamer in a right direction, we think, perplexing to give an eventuality for things to kind of demeanour and feel like they’re removing behind to normal so kids and families have a place to go.

So we consider a suspicion is, we’re looking during Oct. 23 as a date to have propagandize come behind online. We’re going to be creation that a informal decision-making process.

So before, it was a unitary complement and that means that all 1,113 schools follow a same set of rules, yet now we’re going to have 7 regions that would duty some-more like districts. The suspicion is that partial of a problem with this complement formerly is that it was all centralized. There’s too many bureaucracy.

So what we’re perplexing to do is pull a decision-making behind down closer to a turn where people are indeed working.

And was that a preference taken after a hurricane, as a outcome of a hurricane?

Before. And it’s engaging that we ask that question, since what we’re anticipating is that a reforms that we wanted to exercise are even some-more applicable now. And we have some-more of an eventuality to pierce quicker with their implementation.

Are there any areas of a island where we consider it’s going to take longer to open up?

There are places where a charge entered and exited that were usually significantly impacted. The pierce toward informal decision-making helps us improved besiege those problems and figure out where they are and rise a localized response to it. San Juan is not deputy of a rest of a island. So it is really critical that a people who are in those other regions are means to make decisions and ask for resources formed on what they’re seeing. They have to have that autonomy, they have to have that responsibility, that they have that management since we can’t see from here what it is that they need.

What’s a biggest barrier to removing schools behind adult and running?

Electricity.

And what are we doing to understanding with a mishap of a whirly for kids and for teachers?

We brought in an [expert] from Miami-Dade and he came here for a week. We had a common review with a Association of Private Schools.

We brought in a kinship leadership, we brought in senators, we brought in suspicion leaders in a village to make a open and an pithy matter that a dialect understands a volume of detriment that people, that are, we know a family — a extended family — have experienced.

Teachers mislaid their homes and students saw their families remove their homes. So we wanted to give that a deserved space and honour people’s experience.

Folks reached out and said, “Puerto Rico’s going by this, can we help?” So now what we’re operative on is a approach of scaling it.

So a critical thing is that a summary is there, and there will be continued support for it via a remaining partial of a propagandize year. One suspicion that [the Miami-Dade expert] mentioned was carrying an activity as partial of a propagandize day where you’re doing respirating or you’re focusing on wellness or there’s yoga or some kind of arrange of settling awareness experience. And so we’re going to pierce brazen with that.

I know it’s formidable to pronounce generally, yet do we have a clarity of how a kids are doing in terms of mishap following a hurricane?

The fact that we’ve non-stop adult 20 schools final week and a 145 this past week — it’s been a good experience. The center propagandize kids were slicing out and creation traces of their hands and afterwards putting on there things that they would do to assistance in their community. And a seniors done like a wishing tree yet they had values and arrange of done a guarantee of what they would do to assistance rebuild.

I consider it’s cathartic in a way. And we consider it’s a protected space. And we consider a propagandize being open even yet it’s not enlightening time, it’s not a calendar, we’re not behind online — it provides a protected space to be means to process. And we can also take lists of names, and an register of reserve or resources or garments — things that people might need and try to figure out how to channel those quicker for them.

And are many of a schools that are open providing food and other support?

Breakfast and lunch, and we have amicable workers that are doing visits. See if people need medicine. You know it’s functioning as a tie point, where if it’s open and it’s predicted and it’s in a village and we can feed people and try to get a clarity of what a needs are in a community, yet afterwards also have a approach of coordinating that.

There were cases where there were no communications, a telecoms went totally down. It was really tough to find out what people needed. So carrying a propagandize as a arrange of heart is proof to be something that’s carrying a certain effect.

It’s tough to ask for resources if we can’t even communicate. Have we been means to make hit with all a schools?

We’re operative by all of a informal directors, that would be a homogeneous of a superintendent in a unitary system, and that has helped. So we have information on about 73 percent of [the schools]. The hardest areas to collect information on a standing of schools and indemnification has been Caguas and Humacao, and they were both regions that were some-more significantly impacted.

Do we feel like you’re removing adequate resources from a government?

Our budget, a state bill was reduced 10 percent since of a mercantile crisis. And we know, we’ve had a rebate in a series of teachers, yet we also have a clergyman shortage. There’s a rebate in a series that we can hire. And there’s a rebate in a series of teachers that are here to hire, generally in hard-to-fill areas.

Do we expect removing any serve resources from a sovereign government?

We need an assist package. I’ve done that ask informally. If we demeanour during a conditions like Katrina, they got a outrageous volume of sovereign relief. And so not usually are we looking brazen to a sovereign supports that we’ll accept as a outcome of repairs reported to a buildings by FEMA. We’re also looking brazen to support with sovereign supports to impact a peculiarity of schools and a series of options that we indeed have here.

And what are we formulation to do to make certain that kids don’t tumble behind as a outcome of mislaid propagandize time?

We have a integrate of options. It’s tough to build accord when we have 31,000 teachers. [And] we’re not profitable them well. A lot of them have second jobs and they have things to do after work. And traditionally a day has been 8 [a.m.] to 3 [p.m.]. So, I’m advocating for it being 8 to 5 and they use those dual hours during a finish to concentration some-more on these wellness activities and project-based learning.

It’s about 40 enlightening days [lost], between 35 and 40. It’s about 270 and enlightening hours that we have to put back. We’re also going to need to work a integrate of weeks in June.

Typically, operative in a summer months here has been arrange of off-limits. But during this propagandize we was out this morning, they were revelation me that they didn’t wish to do a extended day since they had things to do after propagandize and they would cite to work in a summer.

It’s interesting, a eventuality has combined conditions where I’m means to pierce faster with a kinds of reforms that we wish to, since it’s replaced so many things and it’s damaged a paradigm. And so things that were never on a list are now on a table.