Scarce attendance reported as Puerto Rico reopens schools
Puerto Rico school officials recorded low attendance amid some school reopenings Wednesday as fears surrounding the pandemic persist.
The Associated Press reported that 95 of the U.S. territory’s 858 public schools were allowed to reopen Wednesday as some municipalities recorded low levels of coronavirus infections.
Schools allowed to return to in-person learning also had to meet a list of safety requirements issued by Puerto Rico’s Health Department, according to the AP, including temperature checks and hand sanitizer stations.
Additionally, only kindergarteners, special education students and children in first, second, third and 12th grades were allowed to return to schools in-person Wednesday and will only be in classes until noon two days a week.
According to the AP, students have the option to return to partial in-person learning or continue virtual classes.
However, critics of the reopening in Puerto Rico believe that school reopening plans were rushed because the island as whole has not seen a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases.
The skepticism surrounding returning to in-person learning was reflected in school attendance.
At one school, Ramón Marín Solá primary school in Guaynabo, 30 out of 100 students who were allowed to return to class on Wednesday attended school, despite receiving previous confirmation from the parents of 75 students.
The AP reported that schools allowed to reopen this week were in 50 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities. The status of coronavirus infections in each school’s respective municipality will determine if they can remain open.
As of Wednesday morning, Puerto Rico has had more than 135,000 coronavirus cases and at least 2,067 deaths as a result of the virus, according to The New York Times coronavirus database. The archipelago has a population of around 3.2 million people.
The debate on how and when to safely reopen schools has gained increased attention nationally and among lawmakers in Washington, D.C., in recent weeks.
Republicans have largely pressed the Biden administration to reopen schools and get students back to in-person learning, while teacher’s unions and Democrats have pushed for a more phased reopening once more teachers are vaccinated and infection rates see a sharper decline.
On Tuesday, dozens of House Republicans lined up on the House floor to call for a vote on GOP-backed legislation that would tie school funding to reopening plans.
Republicans have criticized President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, arguing that it should allocate more resources to facilitate school reopening plans.