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Puerto Rico to Close Hundreds of Schools as Island Recovers from Hurricane Maria

School Bus, Puerto Rico

After a sharp drop in enrollment, Puerto Rico will close 238 schools this summer as the U.S. territory recovers from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s Department of Education announced on Thursday.

Teachers and other staff members will not be laid off as the department seeks to save $150 million in their fiscal budget but will be reassigned to other schools, NBC News reports.

“We know it’s a difficult and painful process,” Education Secretary Julia Keleher said when she announced the news. “Our children deserve the best education that we are capable of giving them taking into account Puerto Rico’s fiscal reality.”

There are more than 1,100 public schools serving over 300,000 students in Puerto Rico. Once closed, there will be 828 schools that will remain open, according to the report.

Mayors of 78 of the island’s municipalities will have the opportunity to suggest new uses for the closed schools, Keleher said.

More than 38,700 students have not enrolled in school’s since last May while almost half a million people have left the island to go to the U.S. mainland.

Since Hurricane Maria struck the island in September, roughly 135,000 people have left.

The president of a union that represents 30,000 teachers vowed to fight the changes, in a statement to the Associated Press.

“The damage that the Secretary of Education is doing to children, youth and their parents is immeasurable,” said Aida Diaz.

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