283 schools are shutting their doors in Puerto Rico.
I met Leyda, a security guard at the site of the abandoned Escuela de la Comunidad Dr. Isaac Gonzalez Martinez. She took this job after the school closed, because her granddaughter used to attend there and her family still feels very connected to this place. She showed me pictures on her phone of children playing and happy memories of students learning from teachers who lived in the same community of Caparra Terrace. I toured the facility that is now being repurposed into land to be sold to private developers.
Leyda shared that the neighborhood started going downhill shortly after the closure of the school. Since law enforcement precincts could not afford to operate, private security contractors have replaced community police, and are given special permission to guard their investment properties. Hurricane damage was merely salt to a wound of neglect that festered in these inner city areas over the last 50 years.
The school used to be an institution of learning but, also a safe meeting place for families. Leyda said, “Cuando cierras una escuela, toda la comunidad sufre.” When you close a school, the whole community suffers.