By The Star Staff
An investigation by the Office of the Citizen’s Advocate (OPCPR by its Spanish initials) has found infrastructure problems in some 212 schools throughout Puerto Rico that threaten the safety and quality of life of students, teachers and staff.
Citizen Advocate Edwin García Feliciano said it is difficult to believe that, with the amount of federal funds allocated to the Education Department, many deficiencies persist in school facilities.
“If it is not a money problem, then is it a problem of will or lack of contractors and materials?” he said. “Our responsibility is to be the voice of the school community, so we will constantly follow up on these matters.”
Among the most relevant findings, the OPCPR found that in 101 of the 212 schools, there were problems with the sanitary facilities, such as a lack of sinks, urinals in poor condition, and toilets and faucets in need of replacement, among others. Likewise, the office documented the need to make minor and major repairs to 114 of the 212 schools, such as roof and lighting repairs, painting, and restoration of complementary areas.
García Feliciano also pointed out filtration and lighting problems in 71 schools, and he said the findings do not end there. He stressed that there are painting problems at 91 school sites, plumbing problems in 41 schools, problems with cisterns in 25 schools, a number of areas unsuitable for students with physical disabilities, and a lack of teaching staff in 52 schools.
The official said the problems must be addressed with a sense of urgency using the financial resources of the Education Department and the agencies with which it contracts or delegates those responsibilities.
The citizen advocate was emphatic in saying “it will be up to the Public Buildings Authority (AEP), the Office for the Improvement of Public Schools (OMEP), as well as the Education Department to attend to the reports made and sent to each of them, accelerate these tasks, as well as put them on the agenda if something prevents them from being attended to at this time.”
The Education Department had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.