No date yet for Education secretary-designate’s confirmation hearing

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

After an interpellation hearing for designated Education Secretary Elba Aponte Santos was held last Thursday in the island House of Representatives, Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago told the STAR on Monday that there’s no date yet for her confirmation hearing “until she submits every document required.”

“Once the Education secretary files every document and passes through the Appointment Committee procedure, we will schedule a date for her hearing,” Dalmau said, noting that the majority of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia’s appointments have yet to file the required documents, with the exception of Justice Secretary-designate Domingo Emanuelli, whose confirmation hearing he said will be held “on Feb. 23 or 24.”

As for Dalmau’s position on Aponte Santos’ appointment, he said that even though his colleagues in the Popular Democratic Party expressed their opinions during the interpellation hearing and he “respects them,” he will nonetheless evaluate her “according to the information she files and the public hearing where we [the Senate] will make our own questions.”

When asked what questions the upper chamber would ask, Dalmau told the STAR that he has given Aponte Santos 10 days to submit the Education Department’s school reopening plan.

“I consider that schools are not ready to reopen; it’s too much of a risk to our children to reopen them,” he said. “If they want to move on with cleaning the schools and vaccinating teachers [against the coronavirus], we must do that for a future occasion [for reopening].”

“To say that we are ready to reopen in March when one day they say that classes will be hybrid, and then, on the next day, they say that classes will be in-person, and later they say that in-person instruction will be only on Fridays, and, after that, they say that 200 schools will open again, and then they retract that, saying that only nine will open, so much contradiction shows that we are not ready,” the Senate president said.

When a member of the press asked if this also applies to private schools, Dalmau said yes, while at the same time pointing out that some private schools have established and enforced measures that “are more rigorous than what the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommends.”

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