The largest mass shuttering of public schools in Puerto Rico’s history follows the island declaring bankruptcy on a record $70 billion debt. Restructuring the entire school system presents “a unique opportunity,” the education secretary says.
On Friday, the Puerto Rico Department of Education announced the island will close 179 schools and relocate an estimated 27,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade as part of a school overhaul that will take effect the next school year.
Newly appointed Education Secretary Julia Keleher described the redesign as “a unique opportunity to improve the system,” and said the move was carried out “with students as a priority.”
Keleher said the list of schools initially began with 370 low-enrollment schools, which then grew to 439 “for various reasons.” After further analysis the final decision was reached to close 179 schools, leaving a total of 1,113 schools open as of next August.
A full list of the schools that are set to close was posted by El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper on Friday.
Between 2010 and 2015, Puerto Rico closed roughly 150 schools. The island currently has 1,292 public schools for 365,000 students.
Since 1980, the island has seen a 42 percent drop in the number of students enrolled in public schools, according to a report on restructuring Puerto Rico’s education system submitted to former President Barack Obama by the Boston Consulting Group.