Senate president gives Education, Health chiefs 10 days to provide data on reopening of schools

By John McPhaul

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago on Thursday called on Education Secretary-designate Elba Aponte Santos and Health Secretary-designate Carlos Mellado López to submit in writing to the upper chamber a detailed plan on the preparations, prevention, management and implementation of the guidelines for the reopening of island public schools scheduled for March 3.

The reports required by the Senate president should be submitted in writing to the secretary of the body within 10 days, Dalmau Santiago said.

“For the past few weeks, we have been hearing various versions of the preparation measures that the executive branch is taking to open schools. The reality is that the government has provided conflicting data and constantly announces plan changes which, far from clarifying [the matter], increase the doubts of parents and the school community,” Dalmau Santiago said in a written statement. “In the face of this and because it is a student population that is underage, it is up to us to take responsible and preventive measures that do not unnecessarily expose our children to possible sources of infection. On this subject there is no room for improvisation.”

“If the appointed secretaries fail to convince senators of how prudent and appropriate this decision is, we will be requiring the Governor to postpone the restart of face-to-face classes until next August,” he said. “A poorly made decision on this issue can cost lives and, as far as the Senate is concerned, we’re not going to be part of an improvisation.”

Dalmau Santiago noted that the required report will cover precautionary measures, vaccination data for school staff, including cafeteria staff, facility disinfection strategies, school inspection, weekly monitoring and the system established for that purpose, and compliance with the 14 guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“If in 10 days they do not show that they are ready to open schools, the Senate will clearly and forcefully express itself on this issue and assume its responsibility,” Dalmau Santiago said. “It will be up to the governor to assume his.”

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