The flow of students from Puerto Rico has slowed in recent weeks, but mainland schools continue to take in new evacuees five months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
In parts of the country with large Puerto Rican communities, districts are still hiring bilingual staff, monitoring students closely for signs of trauma, reconfiguring classrooms, tinkering with their budgets, and hoping that state education departments cough up more money to help cover the unexpected costs.
In Florida, which has taken in the largest number of Puerto Rican evacuees to date, educators are grappling with needs large and small, including ensuring that high school students who may have spent months outside of the classroom are on track to graduate at the end of the school year. Some 11,000 evacuees from the U.S. territory were attending the state's public schools at the end of January. Florida schools also have taken in more than 900 students from the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were pummeled by hurricanes Irma and Maria in a span of 14 days last year.
In the western Massachusetts city of Holyoke, where nearly half the resident population is Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent, the 5,300-student district has hired up to seven staff members—some of whom are evacuees—to help students and their parents navigate a school system that may seem foreign to them.
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