Public Schools Scramble to Accommodate Hurricane Maria Evacuees, Hoping Money Will Follow

24 June 2018

Thirty-three days after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, Gloria Irizarry and her family moved to Connecticut.

Irizarry loved her job as a grade school teacher at John F. Kennedy School in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico. But a week following the hurricane, the elementary school building was full of refugees, and the teachers waited for instructions from the local board of education. Classes ultimately wouldn’t resume until January 2018, three-and-a-half months after Maria struck the island.

The Irizarrys are among the more than 135,000 Puerto Ricans who packed up what was left of their lives and moved to the states in the six months following Hurricane Maria, according to estimates by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. The waves of newcomers have put intense pressure on cash-strapped school districts – even forcing the hand of both state and federal governments, which eventually pledged additional funding. Tens of millions will be spent over and above initial 2017-18 school budgets – but it could take years for those dollars to find their way into school coffers, and in the meantime, schools are doing more with less.

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