Puerto Rican students still without power at school one year after Hurricane Maria

Teachers adapt, use Maria as learning opportunity

MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico – This time last year residents on the island of Puerto Rico were bracing for Hurricane Maria. No matter what they did to prepare, the island was not ready for the damage Maria left behind, residents told News 6 a year after the storm.

That damage is still seen and felt in areas like Mayaguez. 

Miguel Arce is a high school teacher at Eugenio Maria De Hostos High School in Mayaguez. His teaching methods are ones he tried to make relatable to his students and something that everyone can relate to is Hurricane Maria.

During class Monday he asked the class to write a memoir. Their subject was Maria. 

"What I remember about Maria the most is I felt like a cockroach? Why? For the first time in my life, I felt insignificant," Arce told his high school students.

A few days shy of the one year mark, he said at times it's out of sight out of mind for his students. Other days it's like it happened yesterday.

"I don't want to sound drastic because I am not a pessimistic person, but this isn't going to get better any time soon," Arce said.

Two months after Maria hit the island, the high school was still without power. Classrooms were filled with the sound of students and fans. 

A year later, they're in the same position. 
"The substation collapsed. It has a piece ... don't know the name of the part, and this (was) July. The last days of summer school. Three days into summer; 120 degrees inside the classroom. Forty-two students per classroom. No electricity," Arce said. 

High school junior Valeria Bonilla, outfitted in a school uniform that consists of a T-shirt and nylon pants, said the computer room is one of the worst areas to be in during the day. 

At 9 a.m., the temperature outside was almost 90 degrees. 

"It's like suffocating. I sweat a lot," Bonilla said. 

Until the substation is fixed the school's power stems from a large generator outside the cafeteria supplied by diesel fuel every few days. School officials couldn't answer how long the temporary solution will go no. The school's principal has yet to respond. 

For Arce, he wants to move forward with optimism. Hoping his attitude is passed along to his students.

"Maria gave us a lot of negatives, but Maria also gave us positives. It's not the end of the world. We survived the storm," Arce said.

Watch News 6 reporter Vanessa Araiza's Facebook live from the high school below and like her page on Facebook for more updates from Puerto Rico.