Local schools welcome Puerto Rican students impacted by hurricanes


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local school districts have welcomed hundreds of students from islands impacted by this summer’s devastating hurricanes. They are providing resources that those children need to continue their education.

Yarie Riz is one student who is trying to adjust to her new school.  Her path to Lake Shore Middle School is unlike most of her classmates. Her home in Puerto Rico was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, so she left the island with her younger sister and grandparents.

The 13-year-old and the school district are working together to make sure the storm doesn’t destroy her education.

Sitting inside one of her Lake Shore Middle School classes, Yarie Riz is far from her comfort zone.

“Some of them know more than me, so I ask them for help,” said Yarie.

 Two months ago, she was in a student in Puerto Rico. 

Yarie’s grandfather, Miguel Vazquez, said if they didn’t come to Florida, his granddaughters would not be in school right now. 

“There’s no school on the south side of the island right now. There’s no power,” said Vazquez. 

According to DCPS, the district has 136 students from Puerto Rico, and 36 from other impacted islands. The district is working to make sure all schools have the resources needed for non-English speakers.

“We want them to have some continuity right away in their lives so they can continue their education as soon as they get here. We want to transition to be smooth,” said Julia Crowe, an ESOL Specialist at DCPS.

While parts of the transition have been smooth, not all of them have been for Yarie.

“In Puerto Rico, it was much easier. I understood more because it was Spanish and that’s my language. But here, it’s different. The math is different,” said Yarie.

Clay County has 36 students also from Puerto Rico while St Johns County has 21. Each school district is providing the same resources to these students and their families as they make this adjustment.
The Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told the State Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday that more than 7900 students from Puerto Rico and other islands damaged by hurricanes this year have enrolled in Florida public schools.  Orange County has the largest enrollment with nearly 1800 students.