More than 300 Puerto Rico schools to be closed by August
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher confirmed Wednesday that the closure of more than 300 schools will have been carried out by the start of the next school year, which begins in August. Her goal, she said, is to have fewer than 1,000 public schools in the system, which in 2015 comprised 1,466.
“I was working on the redesign, but the idea is to increase the quality of the offering…and improve the academic service … We are in the analysis process [of the schools that will be closed]. We are working in a disciplined way,” the secretary said during a brief interaction with journalists after participating in the Chamber of Commerce’s Knowledge Economy and Internationalization of Higher Education Forum.
When asked by Caribbean Business if there was a date set for the school closures, Keleher replied, “We have everything for next year, for August.”
A few weeks ago, the Education official said a list of schools to be closed didn’t exist, adding that the closures will not necessarily reflect enrollment but academic performance. There are 370 schools with fewer than 200 students, but 28 of these are classified as schools of excellence. The purpose is to achieve savings of up to $300 million.
During the forum, Keleher said she has four goals: improving academic achievement, meeting students’ needs, professionalize principals and teachers, and reduce management areas without affecting services.
Although she acknowledged that the current economy is challenging, she said her intention is “to recover the best management in the restructuring of the schools” to end up with “less than 1,000” schools. This will allow for better resources for those schools and the implementation of a bilingual program in some.
She added that, given the lack of economic resources, it will be important to develop partnerships with the private sector. “When we cut the state budget a little, we will need to look out,” said the secretary, who expects that personnel “will be needed” as well as to perform other work, such as cleaning and maintenance, which are areas in which the partnerships could come in.
Meanwhile, she added that the department is holding its initial “talks with a group from China that wants to come and set up a campus,” which would come about as part of an international schools program, which is included in the government administration’s Plan for Puerto Rico.
The department also seeks to increase online courses with the “School Campus” program; implement an entrepreneurship program; and reorganize department supervision through seven educational region superintendents who will be selected “on merit.”