| Updated: September 20, 2018

Putting Puerto Rico’s Schools Back on Track

Education Week in the Field


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When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017, it severely disrupted the U.S. territory’s public schools and the students they served. The road back has been long and difficult, as children, teachers, and parents have struggled with everything from unreliable electricity to emotional trauma. The government’s plans to remake the island’s education system has also touched off fierce debate. Education Week Assistant Editor Andrew Ujifusa and Deputy Director of Photography Swikar Patel went to Puerto Rico in October 2017 to chronicle schools early efforts to recover from Maria while also serving the immediate and critical needs of their communities. Patel and Ujifusa, joined by Video Producer Erin Irwin, returned to the island in late January and again in August to report on the progress schools had made, and to highlight the debate taking shape over the long-term fate of Puerto Rico’s schools. Correspondent Kavitha Cardoza also reported from Puerto Rico at the start of the new school year, for segments on PBS NewsHour and edweek.org.

Their reporting and related coverage is below:





The Latest


Puerto Rican Students Need Jobs. These Efforts Are Meant to Help. Will They?

Puerto Rican Students Need Jobs. These Efforts Are Meant to Help. Will They?

April 17, 2019

Education leaders in Puerto Rico say ensuring students are prepared for jobs on the island is key to the U.S. territory's long-term future. But will its efforts be enough to make young people stay?










The Leadership of Puerto Rico's Schools Is in Turmoil

The Leadership of Puerto Rico's Schools Is in Turmoil

April 9, 2019

The replacement of one interim education secretary with another highlights ongoing uncertainty about the U.S. territory's public schools, which educate more than 300,000 students.










Puerto Rico's Education Secretary Steps Down After Divisive Tenure

Puerto Rico's Education Secretary Steps Down After Divisive Tenure

April 9, 2019

Julia Keleher is leaving her position as Puerto Rico's top K-12 official, but will serve as an adviser at the island's education department to help with the leadership transition and ongoing policy changes.










Possible Conversions to Charter Schools Mark Puerto Rico's Latest Education Fight

Possible Conversions to Charter Schools Mark Puerto Rico's Latest Education Fight

February 21, 2019

The island's teachers' union says decisions about changing traditional public schools to charters are being made in the dark, but the education secretary says that's a misinterpretation of the process.










What's the Price Tag for Fixing Up Puerto Rico's Schools? Try $11 Billion

What's the Price Tag for Fixing Up Puerto Rico's Schools? Try $11 Billion

January 13, 2019

Puerto Rico's education secretary warned that if President Donald Trump diverts disaster-recovery funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall, she doesn't have other money to conduct school repairs.










Paul Pastorek, Louisiana Schools Chief After Katrina, Gets Contract in Puerto Rico

Paul Pastorek, Louisiana Schools Chief After Katrina, Gets Contract in Puerto Rico

November 20, 2018

Pastorek, who helped lead the overhaul of New Orleans' schools after Hurricane Katrina, will help the island with everything from ESSA to philanthropic support as its schools recover from Hurricane Maria.










Top DeVos Deputy: Puerto Rico Will Be a 'Beacon' of School Choice

Top DeVos Deputy: Puerto Rico Will Be a 'Beacon' of School Choice

October 31, 2018

In a Heritage Foundation speech, Frank Brogan said the federal government would make Every Student Succeeds Act accountability a top priority.










How Traumatized Are Puerto Rico's Children, and What's Being Done to Help?

How Traumatized Are Puerto Rico's Children, and What's Being Done to Help?

October 7, 2018

Earlier this year, Puerto Rico surveyed schools to measure the mental health needs of students and educators after Hurricane Maria. They're using results to help schools with the greatest needs.










Key Democrat: Congress Wouldn't Find Puerto Rico School Conditions Acceptable on Mainland

Key Democrat: Congress Wouldn't Find Puerto Rico School Conditions Acceptable on Mainland

September 27, 2018

Traumatized students in need of counseling. Schools without electricity. That's the picture of life in schools in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands painted by witnesses at a forum organized by House Democrats.










Average Puerto Rican Student Missed 78 Days of School After Maria, Study Finds

Average Puerto Rican Student Missed 78 Days of School After Maria, Study Finds

September 25, 2018

The study from the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico also found that many special education students have not received the services they're entitled to in the wake of Hurricane Maria.










Top Democrat Asks GOP for Hearing in Congress on Puerto Rico's Schools

Top Democrat Asks GOP for Hearing in Congress on Puerto Rico's Schools

September 20, 2018

There has been a tremendous amount of upheaval for education on the island since Hurricane Maria, including hundreds of school closures and a significant drop in enrollment.










Video

Puerto Rico, The Forgotten School System

September 19, 2018

In the midst of all the devastation following Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans turned to their schools for food, shelter, and comfort.






How Puerto Rico's Educators See Their Schools a Year After Hurricane Maria

How Puerto Rico's Educators See Their Schools a Year After Hurricane Maria

Sept. 18, 2018

Teachers and administrators are still grappling with lingering storm damage, the impact of school closures, and how best to address the trauma left by last September's devastation.










Declining Enrollment, Shuttered Schools: Puerto Rico’s Education System in Numbers

Declining Enrollment, Shuttered Schools: Puerto Rico’s Education System in Numbers

Sept. 19, 2018

These data offer a glimpse into the traumatic upheaval Puerto Rico’s education system has undergone since Hurricane Maria hit the island a year ago.










Puerto Rico's Students Head Back to School

'We Have to Go Forward': Puerto Rico's Students Head Back to School

August 27, 2018 | Maunabo, Puerto Rico

A year after Hurricane Maria disrupted the island and its schools, students in one small community share their thoughts as they move into a pivotal new year.










Video

As Puerto Rico’s Schools Continue Recovery, Controversy Ramps Up

August 22, 2018

At the start of the school year, a group of Puerto Rican teachers walked off the job, highlighting tumultuous disagreements about the island’s education system.









Clash of Visions as New School Year Opens in Storm-Bruised Puerto Rico

Clash of Visions as New School Year Opens in Storm-Bruised Puerto Rico

August 15, 2018 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nearly a year after Hurricane Maria, tensions are evident as the island copes with continued repairs, school closures, and divisions over charter schools and other changes.










Court Decision Paves Way for Puerto Rico School Closures

Court Decision Paves Way for Puerto Rico School Closures

July 18, 2018

The ruling on a handful of schools appears to smooth the way for the closure of hundreds more, though the island’s civil rights commission has criticized the process.










See the Schools Puerto Rico Plans to Close and Where Displaced Students Will Go
Map

See the Schools Puerto Rico Plans to Close and Where Displaced Students Will Go

June 19, 2018

Our interactive map shows the locations of the 263 schools Puerto Rico plans to close before the 2018-19 school year begins, as well as the 270 schools set to enroll displaced students.










Puerto Rico to Close Nearly 300 Schools, But Ed. Secretary Pledges No Layoffs

April 6, 2018

The move would leave Puerto Rico with 828 public schools in a system that currently serves about 320,000 students. The planned closures would fuel growing debate over the direction of the island's school system after Hurricane Maria.










Puerto Rico Governor Signs Bill to Expand Choice and Revamp Public Schools

March 21, 2018

Puerto Rico's legislature has approved a major education bill that will overhaul the island's educational system and pave the way for vouchers, as well as schools intended to resemble charters.










Here's How Puerto Rico Is Trying to Address the Trauma of Students and Teachers

Here's How Puerto Rico Is Trying to Address the Trauma of Students and Teachers

March 6, 2018 | Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, meeting the emotional needs of staff and students alike remains a crucial piece of the school system's recovery effort.










Map: Where Are They

U.S. Mainland Districts Staff Up to Help the Influx Puerto Rican Students

Feb. 12, 2018

School districts with large Puerto Rican communities are hiring bilingual staff and monitoring student evacuees for signs of trauma.









Teachers' Unions, Top Puerto Rican Officials Fight Over the Future of Public Schools

Feb. 9, 2018 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

Five months after Hurricane Maria disrupted the island’s already struggling schools, education leaders disagree about how to get the system back on track.









Outside Big Cities, Puerto Rico's Rural Districts Face a Long Road Back

Feb. 13, 2018 | Utuado, Puerto Rico

One isolated, the other in town, the two schools share a host of challenges in an area of the island hardest hit by Hurricane Maria five months ago.







Crumbling Classrooms and Power Outages: Inside Puerto Rico's Storm-Damaged Schools

'It's Not Fair to Us.' Puerto Rican Educators and Children Learn in the Dark

Feb. 1, 2018 | Loiza, Puerto Rico

Even in schools that are open, Hurricane Maria’s aftermath continues to pose physical and educational challenges for educators in still-recovering communities.




















Immediate Aftermath


Puerto Rico Faces Huge Challenges in Rebuilding, Reinventing K-12 Education

Puerto Rico Faces Huge Challenges in Rebuilding, Reinventing K-12 Education

Oct. 19, 2017 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

A positive transformation for the island's long struggling schools might be crippled before it can even start—or never take place at all.









In Puerto Rico, a Daunting Effort to Reopen Schools, Headed by a Determined Leader

A Daunting Effort to Reopen Schools, Headed by a Determined Leader

Oct. 8, 2017 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

A fraction of the island's schools have opened again in the weeks since Hurricane Maria, while educators work hard to assess storm damage and open those that remain viable.









Puerto Rican Schools Offer Lifeline in Devastated Communities

Puerto Rican Schools Offer Lifeline in Devastated Communities

Oct. 9, 2017 | Utuado, Puerto Rico

Though still closed to students, schools in many storm-ravaged parts of Puerto Rico serve as key staging areas for relief efforts, including food preparation and shelter.









This Is My Island. My Students Need Me.

'This Is My Island. My Students Need Me.'

Oct. 9, 2017 | Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Teachers in the coastal city of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have been cleaning up their high school in hopes of welcoming back students later this month.









Puerto Rico Teachers' Union Adds Muscle to School Recovery Efforts
Story & Video

Teachers' Union Adds Muscle to School Recovery Efforts

Oct. 11, 2017 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

From funneling supplies to helping students and teachers get back on their feet emotionally, the island’s 40,000-member union plays a range of roles in the wake of Hurricane Maria.









In Puerto Rico, Chef José Andrés Heralds School Cooks Feeding Those in Need
Story & Video

Chef José Andrés Heralds School Cooks Feeding Those in Need

Oct. 10, 2017 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

The renowned chef and restaurant magnate is teaming up with Puerto Rico's education agency to organize school-based cooks around the island.









Through a 5th Grader's Eyes: Puerto Rico's School Disruption

Through a 5th Grader's Eyes: Puerto Rico's School Disruption

Oct. 11, 2017 | San Juan, Puerto Rico

Odaric Rodriguez Ortega misses his teacher and the classes that may not resume again till late November, even as he worries about those who have been hurt by Hurricane Maria.









At Puerto Rican School, Lifting Spirits With Read-Aloud Event

At Puerto Rican School, Lifting Spirits With Read-Aloud Event

Oct. 10, 2017 | Bayamon, Puerto Rico

School "should be ... where the community can come together and deal with these issues," said the principal of a K-8 school that hosted a read-aloud activity.









Boredom, Makeshift Lessons at Puerto Rican School Turned Shelter

Boredom, Makeshift Lessons at Puerto Rican School Turned Shelter

Oct. 10, 2017 | Utuado, Puerto Rico

Practicing their vowels and arithmetic only goes so far for a pair of brothers making a classroom their home for now in the wake of Hurricane Maria.