The school that Edmarie Díaz used to teach in located in Comerío, Puerto Rico continues to stand, but much of the elements of her life that she counted on is destroyed.
As the recent Hurricane Maria pummelled Puerto Rico just last month, she knew that her home, made of zinc and wood, just wouldn’t last long throughout the storm.
“We left and took refuge in my parents’ house,” Díaz said. “When I went back, I found that the roof wasn’t there, everything was wet, there was too much damage, so I understood that I had lost everything.”
The leader’s of Puerto Rico’s system of education will be facing two difficult challenges. They now have the opportunity in place to recreate, not only rebuild, this U.S. territory’s struggling education system, but as teachers such as Díaz on top of thousands of students from the Island continue to live without the most basic of necessities, a transformation may already be crippled.
The storm shocked the island and its weak power grid, destroying the water supply in its path. Over 1,100 schools that catered to Puerto Rico’s 300,000 students also went completely dark for many weeks, and only a few have been able to reopen and serve even the most basic of community needs such as the providing of water and food, or spirit-lifting community activities.
The hurricane, which was a Category 4 at the time of impact, hit Puerto Rico only nine months following the start of Julia Keleher, the Secretary of Education’s tenure. Keleher is a former Department of Education veteran with an eye for reform.
Since she arrived, Keleher drove to divide the island’s merged school district and create more flexible units. Keleher had also aimed at upending the idea of a traditional classrooms to create innovative learning environments.