The Puerto Rico Department of Education on Thursday said it will close 283 schools as the island's student body has shrunk by 38,000 in the last year.
Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said the territory will keep 828 schools open.
Keleher and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) had announced in January they would close 305 schools after an evaluation period, in keeping with the island's fiscal plan approved by the Fiscal Control Board, El Nuevo Día reported.
Under the fiscal plan, the education system will reduce spending by $303 million over the next five years.
Keleher said the schools that will be closed were picked by taking into account the changes in daily life for some families and communities.
“We know it's a difficult and painful process," Keleher said. "We invited the mayors to submit proposals for schools that will be emptied so those campuses can become community activity centers."
Despite the closures, teachers and administrators will keep their jobs and be reassigned to the remaining schools, said Keleher.
Nonetheless, Puerto Rico's teachers' unions panned the move.
"The damage that the Secretary of Education is doing to children, youth and their parents is immeasurable," Aida Diaz, president of a union that represents some 30,000 teachers, told The Associated Press.
Puerto Rico's government has been forced to cut down on spending in keeping with the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a law passed in 2016 to help the territory deal with a more than $72 billion debt crisis.
Under PROMESA, the U.S. Congress established a Fiscal Control Board with authority over the territory's spending.
Because of the ongoing economic crisis — Puerto Rico recently sustained a decadelong recession — and the two hurricanes that devastated the island in September of last year, the island has lost around 10 percent of its population to the U.S. mainland in the last decade.