U.S. Schools Brace For An Influx Of Students From Puerto Rico
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Some of the largest school districts in Florida, plus major cities like New York City and Chicago, are preparing for the possibility of an influx of students from the island.
In South Florida, Miami-Dade County public schools are already working to accommodate students who need to transfer from Puerto Rico.
The problem right now? "We haven't seen that influx yet and a big reason is the airports," says Jackie Calzadilla, the media relations director for Miami-Dade public schools.
Officials in the Orlando schools are also preparing for a smooth transition.
"We are saddened to hear of the impact Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico and the difficulties many families are experiencing," Lorena Hitchcock wrote in an email. Hitchcock is the spokeswoman for Orange County public schools — the district that covers Orlando. The district plans to waive documents necessary for enrollment to ensure students have an easier transaction. And to make it easier for families to receive such additional services as counseling and food, students will be registered and coded into the district's system automatically.
"We are prepared to respond to the needs of families in transition and support a continued education for students," writes Hitchcock.
Those students were moved within the island, often just a few extra miles to their new schools. This time, students will have to cross an ocean.
More than 2,000 miles away — in Massachusetts — one school has experience with this.
"We have procedures in place," says Azell Cavaan, spokeswoman for Springfield public schools, in a city that is a two-hour drive from Boston.
Cavaan says the district has dealt with helping a large influx of students previously. For example, the school typically gets Somali refugees or sometimes has to deal with placing students when a charter school closes, she says.
"We know how to assign students to schools," she says.