It didn’t take them noon. Personnel from the Department of Education (DE) and the Electric Power Authority (AEE) arrived on Friday morning at the Playa Grande Elementary School, in the Monte Santo neighborhood of the island municipality of Vieques. There they dealt with a claim that had not been resolved for more than a year: to restore the electricity service in the campus that is on the banks of Highway 993 and whose enrollment is about 200 students.
The matter was addressed a few days after the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) published a report in which the director of the Playa Grande Elementary School, Naomy Félix, explained with tears the situation her school is experiencing.
Despite the response and the fact that electricity service was restored to a large part of the structure, the problem was not completely solved. The library, where the short-range internet service boxes are, could not be energized, because during the work they realized that “the cables were eliminated, and despite all the work that was done, they never connected them,” he explained to the CPI by telephone the director Félix.
“The main space of our school is the library. As the school does not have too many rooms, the library is the meeting place and it is also an educational center. The library is everything. More now with this pandemic, because that’s where we have the little internet that would work if we had light in that space. The library is where all the electronic equipment is for the teachers in the school to connect. I can have electricity throughout the campus, but if the library does not have electricity, it is useless to have my teachers at school. They have to continue from home and here in Vieques the internet is a headache. So the problem has not been solved, ”said Felix.
According to data from the Community Survey carried out by the Census Bureau, for 2018, 52 percent of Viequense households had an internet provider, while on the Big Island the figure reached 62 percent. The internet in Vieques is not a stable service either.
According to the regional administrator for Technical Operations of PREPA in the Carolina Region, engineer Alvin Rosario Osorio, the Playa Grande school had a meter base of 200 amps. The engineer recognized that the structure was not prepared for the energy load it produced. “That has happened in many schools, that the load continues to increase, because computers and air conditioners are installed, but the design of the structure is old and failures occur,” he said.
When approached about the time it took to energize the school, Rosario Osorio stressed that “since it is an island municipality, things get a little more complicated.”
“What happened was that a new substation was being built and energized. Once the works were completed and the Department of Education made its new contract with the Electric Power Authority, since it proceeded to energize, which was what was done today [viernes]. I was informed that the substation was energized and everything was working perfectly. They should no longer have any problems, neither voltage drops nor interruptions due to the lack of capacity of the transformers, because now they have a substation with sufficient capacity for the entire load of the school and even for a little more, “he said. , despite the fact that it was pending to solve the electric power problem in the school library.
Meanwhile, Professor Félix said that she is urgent to avoid continuing to lose virtual work. He is not sure when the library issue will be resolved, as he did not receive detailed information on the matter.
“I told them that I was very excited about the light and even met my teachers in the afternoon. And my voice broke again, because to think that we worked a year without electricity, with all the challenges … we did it more than well. Now I have light, I have air in some classrooms, but what are my teachers going to work with? When they notified me that the library was not connected, I told them: ‘you took my illusion from me, you killed me’. That is my operational center and more at the moment. And to top it all, the only photocopier that could work, because it is new, just delivered, it cannot be connected because it is installed in the library ”, he declared.
The director Félix also assured that it was not clarified if the work of the library was among the work plans on Friday, “because nobody had noticed [de la remoción de la cablería]”. He affirmed that, faced with this, he will continue to raise his voice to resolve the matter in its entirety. He did not rule out the possibility of working on the issue hand in hand with the Viequense community and volunteers who are willing to put an end to the problem as soon as possible.
“I’m going to start knocking on doors. In Vieques there is an electrician and if I see that things are going to take a long time, I will ask that they donate the work to me. Another thing we discovered today is that the air in the library was burned. That air is important because the school is located in front of a creek and the smell is strong. We try to operate with the windows closed and when the light is restored in the library we must also put in new air ”.
94 percent of the enrollment at Playa Grande Elementary School is economically disadvantaged. Still, the school has the lowest dropout rate in Vieques.