Image via Shutterstock. Classes are suspended since the middle of March, due to COVID - 19. Students and teachers have being working remotely.
Image via Shutterstock.

The Education Department’s decision raises a red flag for parents and experts.

Thousands of Puerto Rican students enrolled in the island’s public education system will not return to the classrooms this semester.

The Education Department confirmed last Friday that schools will remain closed until August.

Secretary of Education Eligio Hernández also announced that classes will end earlier than stipulated. All regular classes will end in the first week of May. Since the middle of March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the island, students have been studying remotely.

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The Education Department’s decision that raised a red flag for parents and experts was promoting all students — from pre-k to seniors— to the next grade, despite their academic achievement. It is unclear if they will give them grades or just advanced them.

The agency explained that 11,700 students were at risk of failure. That represents 4% of the total students enrolled at the beginning of the school year, approximately 294,535.

“Regardless of academic achievement or whether they managed to take distance classes during curfew, all public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade will advance to the next grade this semester,” said Hernández.

The Secretary highlighted the irregularities many students faced since the beginning of this semester, especially students from the south region after earthquakes affected the area. Some students were not able to return to school this semester.

“Within such an impressive crisis, there are many variables. Possibly some of the relatives of that 4% who could fail were diagnosed with COVID-19, some of the deaths came from those families, and they could not have a grieving process for their loved one. Or possibly, due to social distancing, they don’t have the constant support from the extended family, the ones who helped them with their homework. There are many situations,” the secretary said.

Hernández added that next semester will start with an academic reinforcement phase to supplement deficiencies.

The Department of Education Secretary also promised to give a laptop or tablet to each student for the beginning of the academic year in August.

Hernández also announced that this week 658 teachers will start to receive a $1,500 economic incentive, related to students’ special projects. This incentive is part of a few aids that the government is giving to different professionals during the emergency of COVID -19.

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