The reopening of a few Schools in Puerto Rico is proof that it is gradually trying to return back to normal after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Only 98 public schools in the cities of San Juan and Mayagüez have managed to resume classes while another 112 are in the process of doing so.

Electricity is still not available in many of the schools and, generators are not functioning. There is also no internet access or air-conditioning. The number of school days has been temporarily reduced, and the students have been asked to arrange for their own water.

They have also been advised to use mosquito repellent to ward off mosquito-borne diseases.

In order to ensure that education does not suffer, schools have relaxed a number of requirements. Since there is an acute shortage of electricity, homework stands suspended. Loss of clothes in the hurricane has forced school uniforms to become optional.

Restructuring the education system

New York Times reports that it took superhuman efforts to reopen the schools that had faced the minimum damages. Hurricane Maria had struck the island on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. It led to the large-scale demolition of houses, buildings, trees, and roads. It also knocked out power and telecommunication services. Electricity is still not available in large parts of Puerto Rico, and cellphone service is also affected.

Shortage of serviceable generators is another major hurdle facing the people.

The administration has laid down minimum norms for reopening of the schools. One of the requirements is that each school building must be inspected by the Army Corps of Engineers, and must have working water before it can reopen. The schools must also be repaired, disinfected, and properly cleaned of unwanted material like mud, mold, rat droppings etcetera.

Making up for lost time

The schools in Puerto Rico have lost nearly one month of instructional time due to the hurricane. This would mean truncation of curriculum with a focus on the most important and core elements for each grade. The school calendar will also have to be modified to suit the changed circumstances.

Hurricane Maria has destroyed the infrastructure and damaged the schools.

Many of the teachers have moved out to the US mainland resulting in a shortage of teaching staff which will affect education. According to Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s secretary of education, extensive damages have been reported in 150 of the 1113 schools in the island. Therefore, students of these schools will have to be accommodated in other schools. This, coupled with a shortage of teachers, will mean a restructuring of the complete education system.