SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Some public schools will reopen next week, more than a month after Hurricane Maria swept over Puerto Rico, though dozens of buildings were destroyed and others are still being used as refugee centers, education officials said Thursday.
The U.S. territory's 345,000 public school students have been out for more than a month. Education officials say classes will begin at schools in two regions Tuesday — Mayaguez and San Juan. Teachers will arrive a day earlier.
Classes for students in two other regions, Bayamon and Ponce, will begin Oct. 30. It's not clear yet when schools in the rest of the island's seven regions will open. About 80 percent of the island is still without power, though 71 percent has water service now.
There are more than 1,100 schools in the system, but at least 70 were too badly damaged to re-open. Roughly 190 are open as community centers, where students can go until noon, and dozens more are housing about 5,000 people who lost their homes in the devastating storm.
Education Secretary Julia Keleher has said she would like to get students back to class as soon as possible, but she is balancing many different priorities, including safety, repairs, teachers' needs, and finding homes for those staying at the schools.
At least 30,000 students have left for the United States, but some of those are attending private schools, and education officials say they aren't sure how many will return once classes resume on the island. Public school teachers who asked for a leave of absence were told it would be granted until school restarted, education officials said.
Classes typically end June 1, but education officials are considering various options, including whether to extend the school year past June, or make school days longer.
When they do go back to school, many kids will be dealing with the stress of having lost their homes and all their belongings in the floods that hit vast sections of the island.