In Puerto Rico, frustrated parents wonder when schools will reopen. It may be a while

Tim Johnson, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Weather News

Another man in line, Juan J. Delgado, interjected. "The ATMs, they are out of service. I have $40 but I don't know how long it will last ... . If they open the banks, that will be a relief."

In mountainous Aguas Buenas south of San Juan, Angel Perez Bernard said he and his wife were debating what they should do with 7-year-old Andrea and 12-year-old Diego.

"Schools are going to be shut a long time," Perez said. "We're thinking of sending the little ones to Indiana. We have relatives there."

"It depends on the air tickets. They've gotten very expensive," said his wife, Glenda Fontanez Aponte.

School districts across the eastern United States -- ranging from Miami-Dade and central Florida to New York City and Boston -- are expecting an influx of Puerto Rican students as a result of Hurricane Maria. Some districts say they have been in touch with Puerto Rico's education secretary, Julia Keleher, over what to expect.

Keleher announced over the weekend that a scattering of 22 schools across the country would open as soon as Monday to serve as community centers, without formal classes. All 22 have running water, she said, although apparently no electricity.

At home in Aguas Buenas, Perez had not heard that news, only that education authorities were advising parents to "start giving lessons to their kids at home so they don't fall behind." He scoffed at that. Struggles to get water to bathe, and coping with the lack of electricity, take all the couple's energies.

"The problem isn't just the electricity. It's how to regain access to the cellular signal, get food and gasoline," Fontanez said. Looking toward her children, she added: "They are not going to sit here and do homework."

Her young son broke into the conversation. "There's chaos with the gasoline," he said, speaking in English that he polished during a stay in the mainland when he was younger.

The couple pondered about the pros and cons of sending their kids away to relatives on the mainland.

"As my neighbor says, it's easier to find food for two people rather than four," the mother said. But when asked how long she might send her children away for, she looked pained.

"I don't think that I could stand having them away for a whole year."

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