WASHINGTON, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Puerto Rico will close 184 public schools and relocate some 27,000 students elsewhere starting the next school year, it announced Friday, two days after requesting unprecedented bankruptcy protection due to huge debt crisis.
The move is expected to save more than 7 million dollars to the island located in northeast Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico Education Department spokeswoman Yolanda Rosaly said.
"We have a fiscal crisis and few resources and we've spent 10 years handing out nearly 3 billion dollars in a system that hardly has any books," Education Secretary Julia Keleher told local media, "We cannot keep doing what we're doing because we don't have the resources."
School enrolment has dropped 42 percent in the island in past three decades, while an additional 22 percent drop is expected in upcoming years, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group.
Puerto Rico currently has a total of 1,292 public schools that serve 365,000 students. Nearly 450,000 people over the last decade have already left for mainland of the United States to flee the worsening economic crisis.
Also on Friday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain from Southern District of New York was designated as the presiding judge in Puerto Rico's case.
It is the first time for the U.S. judicial system runs a debt-cutting legal process known as Title III of a 2016 law dubbed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), according to a USA Today report.
Puerto Rico sought what is essentially bankruptcy relief in federal court on Wednesday, the first time in history that an American state or territory had taken the extraordinary measure, attempting to dig out of some 73 billion dollars in debt and 49 billion dollars in pension promises.
Though the ripple effects remain in uncertainty, Puerto Rico's crisis is poised to bludgeon investors, threaten the livelihood of American citizens who planned their retirement on the island's promises, and undermine state governments.