In the aftermath of the hurricane that devastated the island of Puerto Rico, many families may be relocating on the U.S. mainland and bringing about an unexpected enrollment boost in some school systems.
Florida Today reports that authorities in many communities are preparing to absorb evacuees. Places such as central Florida, New York city, and western Massachusetts are already home to large populations of Puerto Ricans. However, authorities caution that it's too early to know how many of the island's 3.4 million residents will try to leave; plane travel off the island is still limited.
New York City officials expect thousands of Puerto Ricans to come to the city, the New York Daily News reports, and public schools are ready to absorb new students.
"As many New Yorkers prepare to welcome displaced relatives and friends into their homes, we stand ready to welcome their children into our schools," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said in a letter to the community. "We want to be clear that New York City’s public schools are open to students in need, whether they arrive with or without documentation needed to register, such as a birth certificate that may have been lost in floods and chaos."
Orange County Public School officials said they are developing plans to support displaced families.
"Should we receive students and families from Puerto Rico, we will assist them in making the transition as smoothly as possible," media relations manager Lorena Hitchcock says.
Other area districts, such as Brevard County, Marion County, Osceola County and Seminole County, also were ready to enroll displaced students.
"Brevard Public Schools’ principals have been made aware students may be coming, have been given procedures for enrolling these students in the absence of records," says media coordinator Jennifer Wolfinger.
The Miami Herald reports that the Miami-Dade school district is preparing for an influx of displaced students — either kids sent to live with relatives or entire families fleeing the island, at least temporarily.
"I think it is very, very likely that we will see a surge in the hundreds to perhaps a few thousand,” says Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
WWLP-TV reports that many Puerto Ricans displaced from Hurricane Maria could come to western Massachusetts to stay with family members while the island is rebuilt. Springfield and Holyoke have a large Hispanic population made up of people originally from Puerto Rico.
Hoyoke Superintendent Steve Zrike says that it is too soon to know exact numbers; having limited communication on the island makes that more difficult.