San Juan – The explanations offered by the Secretary of Education, Eligio Hernández Pérez, in some instances were not enough to allay the concerns of the president of the Transition Committee, Ramón Luis Rivera Cruz.
The first discrepancy was the eventual return to face-to-face classes.
“The possible return to classes in a hybrid process is still under analysis by the Department (of Education), although it is being worked on in a series of initiatives. But for example, it has not been fully coordinated with the Department of Health, although there has been a preliminary conversation, a specific and clear protocol has not really been established to be able to make a hybrid plan to use the schools. That is something that we will have to work on during these months, “Rivera Cruz said at a press conference.
However, in the process of public hearings with the officials of the Department of Education, the secretary assured that “what is lacking is for the teachers to arrive and for the students to arrive.”
Another concern of the president of the Transition Committee is about the maintenance of schools during the closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I recognize that there is a delay in maintenance, because all this time that it has been closed and the fact that many employees could not go to perform their functions, it would be necessary to visit all the schools to see how they are, before proceeding to use the same ”, he expressed.
Regarding the reconstruction of the south-southwest schools destroyed by the December-January earthquakes, the president of the Transition Committee stated that “I have not yet seen any construction of any classroom in the south of Puerto Rico to replace the schools. Perhaps because it is such a large department, so gigantic with so many regulations, with so many programs, with so many laws that apply to that department, because the job is much more difficult ”.
The president of the Transition Committee expressed that the situation worries him.
“I see a delay with the reconstruction of the schools in the south, I see a delay with the maintenance of the schools. I also see a delay in the approval of regulations such as the one created by the Montessori Schools assistant secretary, that is still not over, ”he said.
Another point of concern is the issue of the federal monitor, which according to the president of the Transition Committee, the agreement is overdue.
“Changing how the Department works is a huge challenge,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the constant challenges to the auctions carried out by the Department of Education.
After hearing from the chair of the Transition Committee, the Secretary of Education attempted to defend himself on some of the concerns raised by the chair of the Transition Committee.
“Very respectfully I have to clarify the following. When the schools now opened in August to receive the principals, we carried out a special 10-day project where we hired private companies for the total maintenance of the schools. Routine maintenance in Education is mostly contracted with what we call agreements with the municipalities. In that regard, we are not late, “said the secretary.
Regarding the protocol to reopen schools and handle any situation with COVID-19, Hernández Pérez explained that “there are some additional peculiarities. The last item the Health Department has asked of us is a tracking system for all students and all staff. The entire system is already in the Department of Health, the directors have the respective training and only the administrative decisions of when the students would arrive in what type of modality remain ”, he declared.
After the presentation of the Secretary of Education, Secretary of State Raúl Márquez insisted that the Department of Education “presented a number of achievements” during the hearings.
“While it is true that there are some issues that may be delayed or that there may be certain indications and things that can be improved, it is also true that the secretary has done a great job in this period of time,” said Márquez.
The “list of achievements” made by the Secretary of State caused the president of the Transitional Committee to react.
“How good something has been done in the Department, because for that they pay those of us who are in each of the positions. But I come back and repeat that I am concerned about the delay in the areas that are core and important, “said Rivera Cruz.