PDP candidates demand internet connections for students

By John McPhaul

A group of legislative candidates from the Popular Democratic Party, including several teachers, made a public demand Thursday for the island Education Department to immediately create internet connection centers to guarantee that students from low-income families can access their classes online.

Deborah Soto, a teacher at Carmen Barroso School in Toa Baja; Kebin Maldonado, from Boquerón High School in Cabo Rojo; Noemi Andújar, from Isaac Rosario School in Cataño; and Juan Gómez, from Ana Delia Flores Vocational School in Fajardo made the demand to Education Secretary Eligio Hernández Pérez.

“According to the community survey, in Puerto Rico around 53.8 percent of families with children 18 years of age or younger live under the poverty level. In the case of public school students, this number represents between 75 percent and 78 percent of families,” the educators said in a written statement. “Of 1,179,000 households, some 844,000 have a computer (71 percent), while 733,000 have an internet subscription (62 percent). This means that throughout the island four out of 10 families do not have an internet subscription, which dramatically hampers the educational possibilities of thousands of Puerto Rican children and youth.”

The group noted that the proposal is aimed at using schools that are being kept closed due to the pandemic as internet connection centers where children and young students in the surrounding area can go, while observing the necessary precautions, to connect in order to take their classes and obtain the material assigned in each course.

“If the government guarantees a reasonable number of open schools with internet connections, to be used by low-income students, it will be helping to reduce the digital divide that causes thousands of families not to have access to computers and/or broadband connection and that in turn aggravates the lack of access to education that so many children and young people [experience] on the island today,” said Soto, Maldonado, Andújar and Gómez, along with Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz and other House candidates Keyliz Méndez, Domingo Torres and José “Cheito” Rivera.

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