What does it look like when you close more than 250 schools in one summer? Puerto Rico is about to find out.
The U.S. territory’s education department has decided to close 263 schools before the 2018-19 school year. Our new map shows you the location, name, and other key information for each of these schools in Puerto Rico. In addition, the map displays schools that will receive students who are displaced from the schools schedued to shut down. Driving distances between these closing and receiving schools are also displayed at the same landing page where you can interact with the map. (You can also click the map at the top of this blog post to go to the landing page.)
Hurricane Maria has a significant impact on the island’s public education system. But Puerto Rico has also been struggling with declining enrollment for the last several years, and the island’s government has been in the grip of severe fiscal problems.
Critics of the government’s plan, which is being disputed in the courts, say shutting down so many schools will drive away both teachers and students, and also have a tremendous negative impact on communities. But Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said closing schools and consolidating their student bodies with other schools is a crucial step toward better distributing more resources to more students. A recent study showed that about 650 schools were at less than 70 percent of capacity in terms of student enrollment, she noted.
“It’s creating an unfair and disadvantageous learning environment for kids,” Keleher said of such enrollment patterns.
An initial study justified closing 305 schools, much higher than the final number her department settled on, Keleher said. Her department then had to take into account geography, the impact on rural communities, and more, she said. And the environment is still unsettled, she stressed: While a little more than 260,000 students on the island have re-enrolled in public school, she’s still waiting for roughly 50,000 to make their decisions about where they will attend schools next year.
“It’s much more complicated than I think anyone has been able to effectively convey,” Keleher said. “These kids deserve full faculties. They deserve books. They deserve technology.”