The Americas

Puerto Rico aims to rehabilitate 179 schools after closing

Puerto Rico is preparing to close 179 public schools this month, and the island's governor said Tuesday that he hopes to turn those buildings into shelters for animals and homeless people or for other uses.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello signed an executive order creating a committee charged with overseeing the transfer of the buildings to municipalities and non-governmental organizations. He said the buildings also could be used as drug treatment centers, business incubators or tutoring centers.

"We're seeking new uses for these buildings so they don't turn into eyesores like in previous years," he said.

Skeptics of Rossello's plan note that the majority of the 150 schools that were closed from 2010 to 2015 remain abandoned because there is no money to rehabilitate them.

Puerto Rico is mired in a decade-long recession and has seen its school enrollment drop 42 percent in the past three decades amid an exodus to the U.S. mainland. The closures are part of the U.S. territory's measures to confront that crisis.

The government also said Tuesday that it is revising a proposed austerity budget for the upcoming fiscal year after a federal control board demanded it be improved.

Elias Sanchez, the governor's representative to the board, said the board is seeking more information on previous government spending to help it check estimated revenue projections for upcoming years.

The board created by Congress oversees Puerto Rico's spending while giving it some protection from creditors as it tries to restructure a portion of its $73 billion public debt load. It said Monday that it's giving the government two weeks more to submit an amended budget.

The budget isn't yet public and many Puerto Ricans fear it will bring even greater austerity measures.