HATILLO, Puerto Rico (AP) — Alanys Arroyo and her little brothers have been cooped up in a school for weeks, but they aren’t in class. They’ve been living in a campus-turned-shelter in western Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria flooded their home and destroyed their belongings, trying to pass the time while their family waits for help to replace the apartment it lost in the storm.
Fifteen-year-old Arroyo reads or helps her mother clean the classroom where they sleep. The boys kick around a soccer ball and run through the hallways. They are bored and increasingly frustrated, a combination widely felt by young people across Puerto Rico as the island remains stuck in place nearly a month after the hurricane.
Most schools remain closed, leaving kids to pass the time playing on toppled trees or using precious phone battery on video games, waiting for life to return to normal as the adults around them struggle to put their own lives back together.
“The days are long,” Alanys said as she washed what was left of the family’s clothes in a plastic garbage pail. “I miss studying.”
It’s not any easier on her mother, Yahaira Lugo, who has started to despair about how to keep her four children occupied. “What do I do with them all day?” she said. “There’s nothing. No TV. No internet. Our books are gone and there’s no place to go.”
Kids will be kids and many seem to be making the most of what for some at least feels like an extended vacation. But 15-year-old Andy Gualdado says the novelty has worn off and he misses friends he used to talk to every day. “Now, I’d like to go to school,” he said as he took a break from riding his bike past downed power lines and tree limbs in San Juan.
The storm swept across the island Sept. 20, causing at least 48 deaths, according to the official tally. It caused widespread flooding and knocked out the entire power grid for the island of 3.4 million people.
All 1,113 public schools remain closed, though 167 have served as community centers for children and elderly people to spend part of each day and get breakfast and lunch. The education department announced Wednesday that it was raising the number of campuses used in this way to 190.
An additional 99 schools are being used as shelters for about 5,000 people sleeping in classrooms like the Arroyo family.
As authorities try to figure out how to re-open the schools, they must confront the fact that about 70 have been too damaged by the storm to reopen, some with foundations undermined by landslides, and many have no regular water service. Few, if any, have power.
Teachers were supposed to report back to their assigned schools Monday to prepare for a resumption of classes next week, but Education Secretary Julia Keleher now concedes that was too ambitious and only some will open. The start date for the entire system has been pushed to no sooner than Oct. 30.
It’s not just the elementary and secondary schools. Universities and trade schools are also closed or on limited schedules, forcing young people to put their lives on hold or move to the U.S. mainland to pursue their dreams.
Luis Sierra, a 19-year-old studying to be a chef, spent a recent afternoon, shirtless in the blazing afternoon sun, keeping an eye on his family’s stuff at another school-turned-shelter in Toa Baja, west of San Juan. The school where he studies says it won’t resume until August. “I’ve lost this year,” he said.
Some of the public schools in better shape are being used as community centers, where students can come to play and eat a hot meal cooked by the school cafeteria staff.
In darkened classrooms at the Ramon Marin Sola elementary school, as rain poured down outside, fourth-graders played Connect Four and Parcheesi. Others worked on a Hurricane Maria journal, writing about what they bought before the storm and what they lost, and what they hope for their homes.
“We’re trying teach them how to be happy again,” said school director Zoraya Cruz. “We’re not worried about the curriculum right now. We want them to feel comfortable and safe.”
Nine-year-old Celiz Torres said she helped her mother with trying to clean their house to pass the time before school started, but she jumped at the chance to go back to school, even for a few hours. “I missed my friends and my teachers,” she said.
Many students and young people left for the mainland U.S., though the exact number is not yet known. Because the storm followed closely on Hurricane Irma, which skirted the island without making a direct hit, students have had only about six weeks of class since the academic year started Aug. 14.
The education secretary, who runs a system with 345,000 students, would like to get children back to class as soon as possible. But it’s a matter of competing needs, Keleher said. Yes, kids need to get their education and parents need them in school so they can go back to work. But campuses need to be repaired and cleaned and about 10 percent are still being used as shelters.
“You ask yourself: Is it my rush to get that family out? Because if that family is the family of the child that I am educating, who am I serving here by getting them out faster?” Keleher said in interview with The Associated Press. “We have the goal but it’s not the goal at the cost of human beings who are impacted along the way.”
The school year typically ends June 1, but education officials are considering various options, including whether to extend the year past June, or make the days longer.
When they do go back to school, many kids will be dealing with the stress of having lost their homes and all their belongings in the floods that surged through vast sections of the island. Some of the teachers and staff are dealing with the same issues, said Damarys Collazo, principal of the Eleanor Roosevelt School in the Hato Rey district of San Juan.
She says she will try to act like life is normal, but realizes that may not be possible. “The reality is that we are confronting a crisis like they have never experienced,” she said.
Jennifer Rodriguez, a 33-year-old mother of two boys, ages 7 and 1, has tried to keep her older boy occupied with games and coloring books. He has played with his friends in the shelter at the school in Toa Baja where they went after floodwaters wrecked the interior of their house and all their belongings. Her older boy is sad, she says, despite the extra play time.
“My 7-year-old is very smart. He knows there is a crisis and he keeps asking me when it’s going to end and when can he go back to sleeping at home,” Rodriguez said.
In the shelter at Padre Anibal Reyes Belen high school in Hatillo, Gloria Roman was doing a word search puzzle with her kids when they weren’t playing soccer. “It’s not easy on anyone,” she said of life there.
Alanys Arroyo is in the 10th grade. Her father proudly says she is in an honor student. She wants to go back to school but all her uniforms were ruined when the water surged through their ground-floor apartment in Arecibo, destroying nearly all their belongings. They were transferred from another shelter and are far from their friends. She said she tries to keep up with her studies by reading about U.S. and Puerto Rico history, but it’s hard to concentrate.
Her 9-year-old brother, Nataniel, who is diabetic, said it feels weird to be staying at a school but not going to school.
“I didn’t know I liked school that much until I couldn’t go,” he said.
This story corrects spelling to Keleher after first reference.
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Police in Massachusetts are investigating the latest case of vandalism to an Iwo Jima memorial.
Officials say the memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend.
Commandant Bruce Aldrich of the city’s Marine Corps League tells the Herald News that surveillance video captured a man and woman vandalizing the statue at about 4 a.m. Saturday. The fire extinguisher was left behind and is being processed for fingerprints.
City Veteran’s Agent Raymond Hague is concerned the statue’s protective coating was damaged.
The memorial is a one-third scale replica of the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington depicting Marines raising the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi, a moment captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.
The Fall River memorial dedicated in 2005 has frequently been targeted by vandals.
Information from: The (Fall River, Mass.) Herald News, http://www.heraldnews.com
KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — The student who wears the owl mascot costume at a Georgia public university where five cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem had no business leading a cross-campus march in support of the cheerleaders, an influential lawmaker said.
Kenneth Sturkey, who dresses as Scrappy the Owl at Kennesaw State University athletic events, said he donned the costume without permission for Monday’s rally on behalf of cheerleaders who knelt at a game Sept. 30 to protest racial inequality.
“I figured it might help some people step outside their comfort zone knowing there’s an icon behind them,” Sturkey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution . “If standing up to injustice and inequality is something that’s going to upset the athletic department, which I can totally understand regarding the suit … and that may cost me my job, then that’s perfectly fine.”
Republican state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, who chairs a Georgia House subcommittee in charge of funding the state’s public universities, objected to the mascot’s appearance at the rally in the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw. He said Monday a taxpayer-funded mascot should not have been used — unless any group can solicit the mascot’s services for protests.
Attending Monday’s rally backing the so-called Kennesaw Five as a student would be acceptable, “but with respect to utilizing the school’s mascot, that’s inappropriate,” Ehrhart told The Marietta Daily Journal .
During Monday’s rally, television reporters held microphones in front of Sturkey’s giant owl head as he spoke about his support for the cheerleaders, video from WXIA-TV showed.
Any group can request that Scrappy attend their off-campus event, which costs $75 per hour, according to Kennesaw State’s official athletic department website.
No official request to participate in the rally was made and the athletic department did not provide approval for the mascot’s participation, Kennesaw State spokeswoman Tammy DeMel said in a statement Monday.
“Officials with KSU’s Department of Athletics and University administrators are reviewing the situation to determine whether action may be warranted,” it said.
The five Kennesaw State University cheerleaders who knelt Sept. 30 said they would again kneel when the anthem is played at Saturday’s homecoming football game. This time, though, they are being moved off -field into a stadium tunnel during pre-game ceremonies where they won’t be seen by fans.
The cheerleaders said they closely watched national debate over NFL players kneeling during the anthem, before adopting that form of protest. The NFL has been embroiled in controversy over players using the anthem before games to protest against racial inequality and police brutality, protests that have spread at times outside the NFL to college and high school athletic venues. President Donald Trump and others have lashed out at NFL players for not standing during the anthem.
Kennesaw State has said the cheerleaders were being moved into the stadium tunnel before kickoff as part of wider steps to improve the fans’ game experience. The decision was made by the school’s athletic department, which meets after each game “to determine how best to enhance the game day atmosphere,” DeMel said in a recent statement. It made no mention of the anthem protest.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The young Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film finally has a title: “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
Director Ron Howard announced the title Tuesday in a Twitter video celebrating production wrap on the anthology film starring Alden Ehrenreich as the grumpy space smuggler originated by Harrison Ford.
The film also stars Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newtown and focuses on Han and Chewbacca before they joined the rebellion.
The film has had some well-known production turmoil. Deep into the shoot directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller abruptly left the project and were replaced by Howard.
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is set for a May 25, 2018, release.
BERLIN (AP) — German air safety officials say they’ve asked bankrupt carrier Air Berlin to explain why one of its pilots aborted his landing at Duesseldorf Airport at the last moment to make a low pass around the control tower.
An Air Berlin flight was returning to Germany from Miami early Monday when the unidentified pilot performed the pass. Several witnesses captured the Airbus A330 on video.
A Federal Aviation Office spokesman said Tuesday that it is not unusual for pilots to abort landings when necessary.
But Stefan Commessmann told The Associated Press that the Air Berlin pilot’s action “differs from the usual maneuver and the reason for it needs to be clarified.”
Air Berlin didn’t respond to calls. The airline ceases operating at the end of October.
Video from tower: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-bZaghb1CU
Microsoft has begun rolling out an update to its Windows 10 operating system, hoping to spark enthusiasm for its virtual- and augmented-reality ambitions.
The semi-annual update became available Tuesday. Along with virtual experiences, the Fall Creators Update brings new ways to share photos and video and work with 3-D imagery.
Several of Microsoft’s partners — Acer, Dell, HP and Lenovo — are simultaneously launching their first “Windows Mixed Reality” headsets Tuesday. Samsung is releasing one next month.
Microsoft is also announcing a new generation of laptops in its Surface line. Two versions of the new Surface Book 2 — one 13.5 inches and the other 15 inches — will go on sale next month. Starting at $1,499, the powerful computers are aimed at graphic designers and other professionals.