Puerto Rico Education secretary announces closure of 283 public schools
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher announced Thursday the closure of 283 schools across the island, a move that would achieve a saving of an estimated $150 million.
She explained that the numbers of closures by August was reached in part after an analysis and visits to an initial number of schools suggested by the directors of the Regional Educational Offices based on various specific or combined factors.
Those factors include enrollment, low percentage of space use, school premises condition, areas of criminal incidence, distance, accessibility, academic achievement, and special education services.
“There is no specific combination in any of the cases,” the secretary said. She assured that displaced department employees would be reassigned to other schools.
“We know it is a painful and difficult process. Because of this, it has been done in the most sensitive way possible, taking into consideration all the elements that could impact the daily life of some families and school communities in general. Likewise, we encouraged mayors to submit proposals for schools that will be left in disuse so these schools can become activity centers for their communities,” Keleher said.
She also said that the department’s budget for the next school year ensures the possibility of offering the resources that students need, adding that, since May 2017, there are 38,762 fewer students enrolled.
In addition, Keleher assured funds were assigned to provide the necessary materials and faculty needed.
“This reflects a responsible and transparent fiscal planning ensuring that commitment to the students is first and equally reflects the reality that, in almost half of existing schools, only 60 percent of their capacity is being used,” she explained.
The secretary added that under Act 3 of 2017, which decrees the purposes for agencies to take temporary emergency measures to achieve continued government operation that can provide essential services, the department’s resources will be maximized amid the fiscal reality.