The COVID-19 pandemic kept schools closed in Puerto Rico, and power outages and unreliable intent made learning at home more difficult, resulting in 24,000 students failing their classes this year, officials said.
After a three-day trip to Puerto Rico, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Monday that the island will receive nearly $4 billion in federal education pandemic relief funds, the Associated Press reported.
“The students of Puerto Rico have suffered enough,” Cardona said. “It’s time to get back to school safely and quickly.”
Dozens of private and public schools in Puerto Rico were reopening in March with limited in-person learning. However, a month later, officials closed all schools due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and did not reopen them until May.
With 13,000 student receiving an “F” in all of their courses, Puerto Rico’s Department of Education is helping schools run summer school programs with $210 million in previously allotted federal funds.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
Roughly half of the nearly $4 billion will be released as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law in March to help offset the pandemic’s impact on the economy and public health.
Cardona said that in addition to meeting with Governor Pedro Pierluisi, he also will meet with students, parents, educators, union leaders and others “to make sure we hear what’s happening and how we can best support…Puerto Rico.”
It wasn’t immediately known exactly how Pierluisi’s administration planned to spend the newest federal funds. The announcement comes three months after Cardona announced that Puerto Rico had immediate access to $912 million in federal education money.
Strict conditions had prevented the U.S. territory from receiving certain federal funds in a timely manner under the Trump administration, but these have been easing under U.S. President Joe Biden.
The island of 3.3 million people has reported nearly 123,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths. More than 40 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
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