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In Puerto Rico, a Daunting Effort to Reopen Schools, Headed by a Determined Leader

San Juan, Puerto Rico — Can Puerto Rico’s schools get back on their feet in just over a month after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria? The U.S. territory’s top school official has an urgent need to do just that.

There’s been little sleep for Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education as she and her staff work the phones and back channels from a busy command center here to get as many schools open as possible within the next two weeks. Doing so could bring much-needed solace and stability to the commonwealth’s 700,000 students and their families in the aftermath of one of the worst storms to hit the commonwealth in recent memory.

That could mean very different things for communities depending on where they are. Indeed, Julia Keleher still hadn’t gotten word on 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s nearly 1,200 schools, many in remote and mountainous regions. Many people are struggling to access basic supplies, including water and food.