Governor urged to commit to repurposing closed schools
By The Star Staff
The Center for Habitat Reconstruction (CRH by its Spanish initials) urged Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Wednesday to sign a measure that seeks to create a range of public and community priorities to allocate new uses for more than 500 shuttered schools in Puerto Rico.
“This is a reality that we have to recognize. Puerto Rico lost population and we understand that it was not justifiable to keep certain schools open,” said Luis Gallardo Rivera, executive director of the CPH, in a written statement. “But closing the schools without a reuse plan was the great sin of our generation. Now we have the opportunity to correct that for the benefit of the communities.”
In Senate Bill 274, which the governor appears disinclined to sign (see story this page) public, municipal and community uses will be prioritized with regard to a shuttered school campus. The bill, authored by Sen. Elizabeth Rosa Vélez and with broad support from New Progressive Party senators, proposes a uniform process with sensitivity to the community, but without closing the door to initiatives that could generate income for the community or the commonwealth.
The bill implements measures to address allegations identified by research published in 2020 by the University of California at Berkeley and CRH, a nonprofit organization dedicated to prompting the conversion of vacant and abandoned properties into assets for community development in Puerto Rico.
The research, titled “Public School Closures in Puerto Rico: Community Impacts and Recommendations,” showed that between 2014 and 2019, only 10 campuses were sold for a total of $4 million and only 113 of a total of 673 were leased.