Updated: A previous version of this page included an interactive map, which has since been removed.
Hurricane Maria severely disrupted Puerto Rico’s public schools when it hit Sept. 20, 2017. Now, the island’s education system is poised to undergo a controversial transition.
In response to the storm as well as falling enrollment and the government’s long-term financial woes, the Puerto Rico Department of Education plans to close nearly 25 percent of its public schools before the 2018-19 school year begins. Under the plan, 263 schools will close and 847 schools will remain open.
Government leaders say consolidating schools is a necessary step to reorganize and improve the U.S. territory’s schools, but critics—including the leaders of the island’s teachers’ union—say the closures will drive away families and teachers, as well as upend communities. Younger students could be hit particularly hard: Among the schools scheduled for closure, at least 85 percent include a K-5 grade. These closures are subject to a legal battle currently taking place in the island’s courts.
Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said many schools educate far fewer students than they have room for—nearly 500 schools had a utilization rate of less than 60 percent, she pointed out. Consolidating schools will help Puerto Rico “guarantee access to books and teachers and resources in a positive, inviting learning environment,” Keleher said. Enrollment on the island has been dropping for some time; last summer, the island shut down roughly 180 public schools.
Click here to read more of our coverage of Puerto Rico’s schools after Hurricane Maria, from the physical impact to students’ mental and emotional health.
Sources: Puerto Rico Department of Education. (Google Distance API Matrix was used to calculate driving distances.)
Reporter: Andrew Ujifusa
Analysis and Visualization: Maya Riser-Kositsky, Francisco Vara-Orta, Vanessa Solis, Gina Tomko
This story was previously published with the headline, “See the Schools Puerto Rico Plans to Close and Where Displaced Students Will Go”