Puerto Rico Department of Education officials announced Monday the start of a $15 million technological upgrade program that aims to improve the infrastructure for Internet connectivity at the island’s 1,384 schools over the next five years.
The funding, split between $11.8 million in federal allocations and $3.2 million in Education Department money, will also increase the development of technological projects in the classroom, with the goal of increasing student retention and academic achievement and furthering teaching staff skills, Education Secretary Rafael Román said during a news conference.
“Over the past months we have been working on developing plans that allow us to improve the academic experience, promote among our students the skills and competencies needed in the 21st century, and expand the educational tools available to the teacher,” he said.
“Today, we’re pleased to announce that one of those plans that allows us access to federal funds for the improvement of the technological infrastructure and connectivity in our schools has been approved by the U.S. government. The ‘Technology Plan’ announced will lead us to improve the quality of education through the effective integration of technology in the learning process,” said Román, referring to E-Rate funding granted to the Education Department.
At present, 80 percent of the island’s school qualify for E-Rate funding earmarked for technological improvements, he said.
During the news conference, the agency chief said telecommunications provider Claro will be in charge of implementing the technological and connectivity improvements, as well as expanding current broadband access at the schools. Over the five years of the project’s duration, the carrier will also be responsible for strengthening Wi-Fi capacity at the schools, as well as increase broadband capacity from the current 10Mbps available to 1Gpbs.
“In the summer we started building a next-generation fiber optic network with large bandwidths that also meet federal requirements in all that relates to the topic of safety and student access to educational content,” said Claro President Enrique Ortiz de Montellano.
“This world-class infrastructure will allow Puerto Rico schools to be on par with the best schools in the world, promoting the competitiveness of our future workforce and leaders. In Claro, we’re proud to have been selected as a telecommunications provider for this important project,” he said.