Puerto Rico aims to rehabilitate 179 schools after closing

Friday, May 12, 2017

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico is preparing to close 179 public schools this month, and the island's governor said Tuesday that he hopes to turn those buildings into shelters for animals and homeless people or for other uses.Governor Ricardo Rossello signed an executive order creating a committee charged with overseeing the transfer of the buildings to municipalities and non-governmental organisations. He said the buildings also could be used as drug treatment centres, business incubators or tutoring centres.

“We're seeking new uses for these buildings so they don't turn into eyesores like in previous years,” he said.

Sceptics of Rossello's plan note that the majority of the 150 schools that were closed from 2010 to 2015 remain abandoned because there is no money to rehabilitate them.

Puerto Rico is mired in a decade-long recession and has seen its school enrolment drop 42 per cent in the past three decades amid an exodus to the US mainland. The closures are part of the US territory's measures to confront that crisis.

The Government also said Tuesday that it is revising a proposed austerity budget for the upcoming fiscal year after a federal control board demanded it be improved.

Elias Sanchez, the governor's representative to the board, said the board is seeking more information on previous government spending to help it check estimated revenue projections for upcoming years.

The board created by Congress oversees Puerto Rico's spending, while giving it some protection from creditors as it tries to restructure a portion of its US$73-billion public debt load. It said Monday that it's giving the Government two weeks more to submit an amended budget.

The budget isn't yet public and many Puerto Ricans fear it will bring even greater austerity measures.

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