21st Century School’s Modernization Program

In the year 2010, the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority (PRIFA) set out the assessments, studies, qualifications, and financing efforts needed to drive and manage island wide the School Modernization Program.  With a total population close to 4 million people, the government has appointed an investment of $756,000,000 to transform the public school system infrastructure with the main objectives of achieving the educational effectiveness of the students, the integration of surrounding communities, and the environmental sustainability.  The Modernization Program has the appointment to positively impact one hundred (100) schools (some of them new) that serve around 50,000 students of elementary, middle, and high school levels located in 78 municipalities.  The Program has been conceptualized as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) business model that incorporates the Design, Construction, and Building Conservation responsibilities of the projects through contractual agreements with an array of private companies that were evaluated and qualified prior to starting the request for proposal (RFP) process.

In order to identify the necessities of the schools, a school survey was planned and conducted by educational specialized consultants, addressing a quantitative study to appraise the existing conditions of buildings, most of them built before the year 1960, and to qualitatively assess and evaluate their educational adequacy.  This effort led into the development of a Design Standard Manual applicable to all projects as a guideline to meet the uniform functional area requirements within all schools premises.

As a strategy to manage a significant amount of projects that are developing concurrently, the island was divided into six (6) geographic regions to allow an effective supervision of the jobs under development.  The owner (PRIFA) also hired different firms to perform specific tasks such as Inspection, Project Controls, and Safety.  Caribbean Project Management, CPM, integrated all these disciplines by acting as a liaison on the Owner’s behalf.    The detailed design and construction modernization works for the first school commenced in November 2010, being in scheduled to be delivered to the Department of Education for its intended use in December 2011.  The procurement process has being conducted in a straight-scheduled manner, leading to the current execution of more than seventy (70) projects.  Modernization budgets for such projects range from $3 to $20 million each.

21st Century Modernization works are primary focused in the development of laboratory spaces dedicated to arts and sciences fields with appropriate furniture, open classrooms with natural ventilation, pavilions that sponsor the community integration into the schools environment, computerized technology and the pursuit of LEED certifications (mostly for new schools) to maximize energy resources.  An amount of approximately forty nine (49) schools are expected to be completed by the summer of 2011.   In addition to the educational benefits, the Modernization Program has created more than 3,400 jobs in less than a year providing employment to many families throughout the construction process.  The infrastructure conservation activities will effectively warrant the maintenance of the schools, once the modernization and the new construction works are completed.