• The Star Staff

Teachers Assn. leader says schools he has visited meet Health Dept. COVID-19 protocols

Points out concerns over infection risk in coronavirus isolation rooms

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

As the expected March 10 return to in-person instruction approaches, Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Manuel Bonilla Suárez said Wednesday that he has found “an environment that meets the requirements established within the Health Department protocol” at La Esperanza School (formerly known as Luis Pales Matos School) in San Juan, Ramón Marín Solá School in Guaynabo and Fair View Elementary School in Trujillo Alto.

Bonilla Suárez said he chose to visit La Esperanza School first because the entire student enrollment consists of special education students.

“The contained rooms were well marked, the routes were well marked, and restrooms were available with the requirements,” said the AMPR president, who was joined in the inspection by the school’s principal, Juan del Valle.

“We believe that the school is enforcing the Health Department protocols against COVID-19,” Bonilla Suárez added. “Due to the COVID pandemic, the principal informed me that four more janitors [have been hired] to keep the schools clean and enforce safety protocols.”

The AMPR leader said he found the teachers who were present at the schools, as faculty members began in-person work on Wednesday, to be “available and [we were] glad to visit them.”

“We informed them that we will be aware of their well being through these oversight visits,” he said.

Bonilla Suárez said he will continue visiting the schools that the island Health Department has authorized the Education Department to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, 115 public schools have been certified as capable of receiving both students and teachers.

“It is the responsibility of both the organization and the union local to go to all the schools the government and the Department of Education want to open and that have been identified as able to start face-to-face classes,” Bonilla Suárez said. “I want to tell all teachers to make sure that the union remains very aware of the health and safety committees’ effect.”

“They will be reporting any negative aspect so we can then do what’s proper and inform the Education secretary [Elba Aponte Santos] that a certain school is not fulfilling the health protocol,” the AMPR president said.

As for the COVID-19 isolation rooms at the schools, Bonilla Suárez raised concerns over the room at La Esperanza School and its 10-person occupancy capacity, which he considered to be a large number because it could expose students who might not be infected to the coronavirus.

“I asked the principal for the room measurements, and here we advised and requested to verify the capacity number,” the AMPR president said. “He then informed me that only five students and one teacher assistant would be occupying [the room] in a case in which they had exactly five pupils with COVID symptoms.”

When asked about student attendance at the San Juan school, Bonilla Suárez said that “from 167 students who are enrolled in this school, only 60 have confirmed to attend.”

As for teachers inoculated against the coronavirus, he said that around 72% of the faculty have received the vaccine.

“There are no problems there,” he said.

“I want to thank every teacher who has stepped into a school today [Wednesday],” Bonilla Suárez said. “Thanks to all of you, public education remains standing.”

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