Senator points out ‘preposterous’ school maintenance backlog
Sen. Ada García Montes
By THE STAR STAFF
Sen. Ada García Montes, who chairs the Education Committee in the island upper chamber, expressed frustration on Thursday in response to information provided by Public Buildings Authority (AEP by its Spanish initials) Director Yamil Ayala Cruz, who acknowledged that with a new school year about to begin, maintenance work has been completed at only 16 of the 324 schools overseen by the entity.
“It is absolutely preposterous,” García Montes said. “Everyone knows that school starts in August, and reasonably the AEP should’ve had a realistic plan to perform all the work which they are obligated by law to perform. Now at the tail end of July, the only thing Ayala is promising is his ‘intention to make sure schools are as prepared as possible.’ That to me is not an acceptable response and my call to Governor Pierluisi is that he addresses with true urgency what is happening at the AEP.
Out of the 854 schools in the public school system, it is estimated that 364 are under the AEP jurisdiction.
Ayala has said that his personnel have been working on weekends and holidays, to which the Mayagüez and Aguadilla district senator responded, “but not even that has been enough to get up to date.”
“What needs to come next is for the director to present what the specific plan is to cover all Puerto Rican schools,” García Montes said. “A rural school in Las Marías is just as important as one in the island’s capital.”
“The allegation by Ayala that the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico hasn’t assigned the resources necessary to the AEP for schools, taking that as true, have there been any collaborative agreements with other government agencies, with municipalities, with sports organizations, community organizations, or are these simply expected to collaborate?” the senator added. “To me, without a doubt the AEP could and can do much more than this.”
Regarding the claim that the rest of the schools are not handled by the AEP but instead are the responsibility of the Office of Public School Improvement, García Montes called on interim Education Secretary Yanira Raíces to respond to the situation.
“Let’s hope this administrative unit is not in the same boat with the same setbacks,” the senator said. “There are funds and personnel to get the job done. It’s up to the administration, but overall they have to have the will.”