Dept. of Education to invest $6.6M in safety gear to reopen schools
Puerto Rico Education Secretary Elba Aponte-Santos confirmed plans to invest $6.6 million in protective gear and materials for the reopening of public schools in a “safe” and “healthy” way.
The Financial Oversight and Management Board of Puerto Rico approved the funding and oversaw the investment for a detailed list of materials, cleaning and protection products for teachers, students and administrators in schools that will reopen, especially those welcoming students back in March.
The distribution of the so-called “basket of materials” will include antibacterial soap, multiuse cleaners, liquid and aerosol disinfectants, paper towels, brooms, mops and buckets, garbage bags, and liquid floor cleaning products, among others.
“As we have said for several weeks, the proposal to reopen some of our schools with the highest potential will be in a safe and healthy way,” Aponte-Santos said.
“That’s why we didn’t hold back on purchases of cleaning and disinfecting products that will allow us to keep spaces safe for the students and staff. Each school is equipped with everything the protocol requires, so that parents can feel comfortable leaving their children during this transition process,” said Aponte-Santos.
The Education Department had previously received $803,437 from the COVID- 19 CARES Act, which it invested early in the pandemic through in safety materials.
The agency distributed some of the same materials throughout the seven school regions, administration offices and special education centers, she said. Some of the items handed out were surgical face masks, hand disinfectant, disinfectant wipes, liquid alcohol, and face shields.
The agency also distributed 1.2 million face masks provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in packages of five each per student and teachers.
In addition, the school grounds will have available extra surgical masks, digital temperature machines and every school nurse will have proper equipment and surgical gowns, she said.
And as a precautionary step, the Education Department will have an inventory of 900 manual thermometers for schools.
Furthermore, distribution of face shields for students were done at each school and more than 50,000 adult face shields were ordered for teachers, which will be distributed as the institutions start opening, Aponte-Santos said.
As for school cafeterias, which will be operating in “to-go” mode, staff will receive surgical masks, gloves, alcohol dispenser, digital hand sanitizer dispenser and automatic paper towel dispenser to prevent contagion, she said.