School Modernization Program
Puerto Rico has more than 1,500 active schools serving about 485,000 students. About 70% of public schools that are operating today were built more than forty years ago, some dating as far back as the 1930s and 1940s.
Currently, the Public Education System does not have a program of maintenance and effective conservation to ensure that schools are maintained in optimal operating conditions. This has created serious infrastructure problems that cause delays in the start of each school year. This has also led to the use of improvised maintenance services, the continued implementation of emergency repairs and the loss of a significant amount of school days. On the other hand, the general physical appearance reinforces a negative public image and the development of stigmas that affect demand for services from the public school. Moreover, there is no standard or prototype design guide for the rehabilitation of existing facilities and construction of new schools, resulting in inefficient designs and high construction costs.
The Government of Puerto Rico is interested in developing an efficient and diligent rehabilitation program to modernize the current infrastructure condition of a number of schools with the ultimate goal of improving academic performance and fostering community integration into the Public Education System
The objective of the concession is to significantly better school habitat to improve academic performance in the Public Education System. This will be achieved by looking at the real world of people plus the buildings and spaces they inhabit in order to understand the connections between the built environment and the human psyche. The idea is to shape the buildings in which we learn so that they are truly the most visible manifestation of our future aspirations as a society. The built environment is not only the place of learning, but also the psyche of learning.
The School Modernization Program started in the year 2010 and contemplated the renovation of approximately 100 schools distributed among all municipalities of Puerto Rico. The program was known as Schools for the 21st Century and involved construction work in 81 public schools (71 entailed the remodeling/reconstruction of existing schools, while the remaining 6 involved the construction of new school buildings). Financing of the program was provided by the public sector with funds that predominately came from Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB), authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
A second phase of the School Modernization Program has started with the remaining funds available under the program. This second phase is known as Escuelas de Primera.
Fielding Nair International and UNIPRO are acting as technical advisors to the P3A regarding the evaluation of schools’ physical condition and the creation of guidelines for their modernization.
Fielding Nair is an international architecture firm specialized in school modernizations and creative learning communities, while UNIPRO is a local architecture, engineering and planning firm with vast experience in renovations and structural assessments.
General Assessment and General Design Guidelines
In June 2010, important milestones were completed. The P3A in collaboration with Fileding Nair International and UNIPRO have completed important documentation that include 1) a general assessment of the actual infrastrucutre landscape of schools and 2) a summary of the new trends in design and use of space in schools in the 21st century. These documents reveal a new approach to school infrastructure and facilitate the understanding and rationale of the Puerto Rico Modernization Project. Here you can access the General Assessment and General Design Guidelines.
The Office for the Maintenance of the Public Schools in Puerto Rico (OMEP, for its Spanish acronyms) estimates that public schools will need around $1.4 billion to restore the physical structures conditions of the approximately 1,500 schools around the Island.