• The Star Staff

Zero connection: Online semester starts with serious problems, according to the school community

By The Star Staff

Evelyn Matías, a teacher, posted a photo of herself on Facebook sitting on the floor of the porch of a friend’s home with her laptop in order to teach classes online because she has been without power or internet for three days.

“Searching since early this morning for an internet signal to teach classes. Thanks to the person who allowed me shelter,” she said.

Yaritza Miranda, another teacher, said that because she has been without electricity, she was forced to use her cellphone to welcome each of her groups and let them know the difficulties she was having. Yazmín Méndez, another teacher, said she had to frantically look for a place she and her two children, who have begun classes, can connect to the internet.

The virtual school semester began on Aug. 17 but a week later, teachers and students are still having difficulties.

Deborah Soto Arroyo, a social studies teacher, charged Monday that the Department of Education did not take into consideration the thousands of teachers and students who do not have internet service in their homes in order to begin the virtual school semester. Likewise, she assured that, to this day, there are a large number of students who do not have computers either.

“Teachers have always been available to teach with the virtual modality, even recognizing that many colleagues do not have internet service. Some who do have internet haven’t even been able to activate their respective emails because they don’t have the resources to pay for faster internet,” said Soto Arroyo, a teacher at Carmen Barroso Morales School in Levittown, Toa Baja. “We have had cases of teachers who choose to expose themselves to infection with COVID-19 by visiting the homes of other teachers to help them with the connection since they do not have internet in their homes, or the one that they have does not have the required speed.”

Soto Arroyo, who is running for a legislative seat under the Popular Democratic Party banner, said teachers are doing everything possible to remain calm and not show anxiety to parents and students.

“However, we call on the Department of Education to provide us with guidelines that we can implement so that teachers and students who do not have internet service are not left behind,” she said.

Iniabell Ramos Tosado wrote on Facebook that teachers have been forced at their own expense to increase the speed of their internet in order to teach.

“We are always running the extra mile and are the worst paid,” she said.

Over the weekend, the White House formally declared teachers essential workers as part of its efforts to encourage schools around the country to reopen for in-person learning. Most teachers in Puerto Rico have resisted the idea. However, they are supposed to return to schools in September despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The island Education Department’s website contained notices about the continuing delivery this week of laptops to students and teachers. For instance, there was a public notice about the delivery of laptops and other electronic equipment in Ponce. The STAR called the agency to inquire about the delay in delivering laptops, but as of press time had not received a response.

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