Puerto Rico is headed for a rocky reopening of schools on March 3
Kindergarten, special ed, and grades 1, 2, and 12 are set to return to a version of in-person learning on the island.
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Puerto Rico announced last Monday, Feb. 8, that schools will begin to reopen on the island starting on March 3.
The announcement comes as a shock for some people who have been using online resources as a means of learning for close to a year.
Most parents are concerned about sending their kids off to school, especially after multiple variants of COVID-19 have been discovered around the world and more recently, in the U.S.
“I recognize there is uncertainty among parents and the school community given the announcement of the upcoming reopening,” said Elba Aponte Santos, Puerto Rico’s education secretary-designate.
Starting March 3, five grades will be heading back to school.
Kindergarten, special education students and children in first, second, third and 12th grades will be targeted.
Santos also announced that schools will be in-person only twice a week, with days ending at noon.
In preparation, schools are taking the proper steps to ensure family members that facilities will be clean and sanitized at all times.
“As we have said for several weeks, the proposal to reopen some of our schools with the highest potential will be in a safe and healthy way,” Santos said.
Only eight to twelve students will be able to enter a classroom at a time. Parents also are not allowed to enter the facilities. In addition to being stocked with proper sanitizing products, schools will also make use of technology to track any cases that could pop up.
"We are making all the necessary adjustments to not only have the equipment and materials that allow a safe opening, but the use of data management technology will be of great help to Health and to the school communities," Santos said to WIPR.
Santos also added that over 24,000 employees have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Over 1.2 million face masks have been distributed around the island provided by the CDC for students.
Santos also ordered 50,000 face shields for teachers who will also be returning to classrooms.
Puerto Rico has seen its rough shares of struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. territory has had over 131,452 cases within the year according to The New York Times, and around 1,920 deaths.
Some are criticizing Santos for the move, calling it ‘reckless’ and ‘criminal’ that children should be heading back to school.
On social media, the backlash is ramping up.
“This is going from bad to worse, children have to be protected,” wrote one parent on Facebook
Another said that she will not let her child go back to school until late summer.
“They should wait until August or until conditions permit,” she wrote.
The Education Department had previously received $803,437 from the COVID-19 CARES Act.
The funds only cover materials that are used to guarantee the safety of citizens.
The Teacher’s Association in Puerto Rico also expressed great concern over Santos’ actions and will be finding a way to outrule her controversial decision.
Víctor Bonilla, the vice president of the organization stated that it is still too early for children to return to school.
"If the government cannot provide that precise data, it's not in a position to talk about reopening schools in March," he said.