Although the guideline of Governor Pedro Pierluisi was clear that public schools should be in optimal condition by March, when he envisions that face-to-face classes will gradually begin, mayors of the southwest region consider that it is almost impossible for students to attend to the classrooms in two months.
This is due to the fact that most of the public schools in these municipalities suffered substantial damage from the seismic sequence reported in that area, including the two earthquakes of magnitude 5.8 and 6.4 that were reported in early 2020. Precisely, the designated secretary of the Department Department of Education (DE), Elba Aponte, said this week that 140 of the 855 schools on the island have been classified as unfit or partially unfit.
“We were meeting with the new secretary (of Education), we explained the situation in Yauco, that of 14 schools only four could be used if the school year is opened in person. The other 10, some need improvements and another one, which is one of the most important schools not only in Yauco, but in the entire country, the Ramos Antonini school, has to demolish a building, ”said Mayor Ángel Torres Ortiz.
Meanwhile, the outgoing mayor of Guánica, Santos ‘Papichy’ Seda, indicated that in order for face-to-face classes to begin in March, they would have to install temporary schools, which are already in the middle of the auction process. “But I doubt that in three months we can have all schools ready,” he added.
“The schools were given the first evaluation, which is the one carried out by the municipality, the second evaluation was made, which is the one carried out by a structural engineer, in this case the DE. There, what they were waiting for was for the evaluation of FEMA (Federal Agency for Emergency Management) to determine if those schools were going to be demolished, were to be rebuilt or were going to be remodeled, “said the official.
Parallel to this process, he said that an auction is running through the Infrastructure Financing Authority (AFI) for the installation of temporary schools in Guánica. This municipality has six schools and, although only the Agripina Seda collapsed, the rest are useless, the mayor acknowledged.
Similarly, the incoming mayor of Guayanilla, Raúl Rivera, understands that it would be impossible for classes to start in March – in person – in the southwest area.
“We still don’t have the schools. Nothing has been done with the schools yet. At least the municipality of Guayanilla has only one certified green school, which is the school that I direct until tomorrow (today), the Gloria Borrero school, ”mentioned the mayor, whose municipality has six campuses.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Peñuelas, Gregory Gonsález, stated that “as commented in the past, some inspections had been carried out. For sure, we were not given details about what was the result of these inspections, but the reality of what we know and the visits we have made is that we are not ready to start classes in any of the schools ”.
For his part, Pierluisi said yesterday to THE SPOKESMAN that there is around $ 2,200 million for the repair or construction of schools. “I think it is a matter of executing, of identifying the schools we need in the town of Guánica, in which all the schools were in ruins and proceeding to auction those works and carry them out,” he said.
“In the case of the schools in the other impacted towns -Guayanilla, Yauco, Ponce, Peñuelas, among others- it is the same, that inventory is made quickly and that the works that have to be done are done. The DE secretary knows that this has the highest priority on my agenda, ”he mentioned.
Regarding Housing, Pierluisi said that the designated secretary William Rodríguez knows that he wants to diversify the programs he has for the construction of residences in Puerto Rico for victims of both hurricanes Irma and María and the earthquakes.
“I recognize that in the case of earthquakes (federal funds) CDBG-DR does not apply as such, but nevertheless this program does allow housing developments to be carried out throughout Puerto Rico to the extent that we have that need later. hurricanes and the secretary knows, or I asked the secretary, to evaluate the voucher system that we have right now and to consider the possibility of using the voucher system for planned developments, ”added the chief executive.