It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation in its wake.
Those affected include more than 8,500 students — including 7,756 from Puerto Rico — who have since enrolled in K-12 schools throughout Florida, according to an update on the matter provided by Commissioner Pam Stewart at the State Board of Education earlier this week.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the largest proportion of students have settled in Orange County, which has welcomed 2,251 students.
While 41 of Florida’s 67 counties are hosting displaced Hurricane Maria students, the six Central Florida counties along the I-4 corridor — Hillsborough, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, and Volusia — have seen the highest concentration, with 61 percent of evacuated students settling there as of the end of November 28.
“Any eligible, displaced student enrolled in a Florida school can seek to earn a Florida diploma; however, Florida schools will also provide a path for displaced Puerto Rican high school juniors and seniors to substantially complete the Puerto Rican high school curriculum and earn their Puerto Rico high school diploma,” Stewart said in a November 17 letter to Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education. “This will allow students the ability to graduate on time with a Puerto Rico diploma rather than risk potential delays inherent in attempting to complete the different curriculum necessary to obtain a Florida diploma.”
Visit the Florida Department of Education’s website for information on how to support individuals affected by Hurricane Maria or Hurricane Irma, or to make a contribution to the Florida Disaster Fund.