• The San Juan Daily Star

Agreement signed for $193 million for upkeep of schools

By The Star Staff

Acting Education Secretary Eliezer Ramos Parés and Public Buildings Authority (PBA) Director Andrés Rivera Martínez have signed an agreement of understanding and cooperation to improve and repair public schools, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced Tuesday.

Some $193.5 million from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund has been allocated for the work.

“Our children and young people finally returned to school, after a year and a half of distance education,” the governor said in a statement. “We have focused on returning them to face-to-face education. That is why we prioritize vaccination for teaching and non-teaching staff, and protocols based on the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention]. This collaborative agreement between the Department of Education and the Public Buildings Authority is an important step toward working with a sense of urgency and carrying out the continuous maintenance required at the schools.”

Ramos Parés stressed that the improvements to the physical plants of island schools are part of the government’s plan to ensure continuous maintenance at each school, prior to the resumption of classes in August and January.

“Our schools serve as a second home for our students,” he said. “That is why it is a priority for us that schools can receive constant maintenance to be ready before the start of classes in August and January. To be able with these federal funds to improve the structures will be beneficial to make the jobs regular. They are permanent jobs that are going to improve the school environment.”

Meanwhile, Rivera Martínez said the PBA will provide technical, legal and financial assistance on the infrastructure of public properties, assisting in inspections for the work, the bidding processes and the awarding of the firms in charge of the work.

“The PBA has the experience and expertise in the management of projects for the rehabilitation, conservation and construction of public buildings,” he said. “At the same time, the purchases that are recommended will be under the records of the General Services Administration.”

The agreement between the two agencies also establishes that improvement priorities will be approved by the director of the Office of Education Infrastructure. Likewise, the contracts and disbursements will be carried out by the agency, with the recommendations of the Authority’s experts.

The scope of the work contained in the agreement is as follows: mitigation of fungi in the interior and exterior spaces of the schools, including in the ventilation machinery, offices and ceilings; mitigation of regulated material that has been altered or exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic; and the partial or total repair of roof sealing systems, as well as internal and external painting of the various affected areas of the buildings.

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