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Florida Schools Prepare For Evacuees From Puerto Rico

Damage from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Photo: Puerto Rico National Guard by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos

Puerto Ricans fleeing the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria have already begun to arrive at Florida’s public schools, and district leaders are preparing for more.

Broward County schools took in 128 hurricane evacuees last week, mainly from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Miami-Dade enrolled 31 from Puerto Rico. That’s in addition to 16 kids from the Keys, and a few from Texas who arrived after Irma and Harvey.

School leaders across the state are preparing for what could be a much bigger influx.

“If there’s one system in America that can actually respond quickly to these types of situations, it’s a system like Miami,” said Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “We are ready to embrace them, to hug them, to love them and to teach them.”

Orange County Public Schools is also responding. Among other preparations, the district is working with nonprofits to gather supplies for kids headed to the Orlando area. Central Florida has one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in the country.

“In some cases, you might have students that are coming here without school clothes or without school supplies,” said Scott Howat of the nonprofit Foundation for Orange County Public Schools.

The federal government has directed school districts to classify these students as “homeless.” That means they’ll automatically qualify for free breakfast and lunch.

Orange County schools have admitted about 40 kids impacted by recent natural disasters, including the earthquakes in Mexico.

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