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Puerto Rican students arrive in Florida, in droves

Stories from the schools in Puerto Rico following devastating hurricanes have been both big and small.

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Lawmakers in Florida and in other places have made a strong case for giving schools a little flexibility when it comes to accepting Puerto Ricans who have had to leave their home and life on the island behind and start to plant new roots in a place like Chicago, New York, or Miami.

For example, 20,000 students (approximately) will be able to enroll in class at the Florida Virtual School, an online delivery mechanism, available to those who have internet access and electrical power, the Miami Herald reports.

Schools in Orlando say they’re ready to accept students from Puerto Rico, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

The paper quoted Yolanda Rosaly, a spokeswoman from the Department of Education in Puerto Rico, as saying the department had heard from from 452 public schools out of 1,112 in the island. The department announced a week ago that 22 of them will serve as community centers, a report that was confirmed by Education Week. In some areas, excluding Rio Grande, schools in good conditions began to receive students as early as October 4, but many schools won’t open until later this month.

The biggest problem right now seems to be that much of the island is still without power, although reports are scattered. It doesn’t help matters that FEMA keeps changing its website.

The Washington Post said as of October 4, “half of Puerto Ricans had access to drinking water and 5 percent of the island had electricity, according to statistics published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its Web page documenting the federal response to Hurricane Maria.

“By Thursday morning, both of those key metrics were no longer on the Web page.”

Puerto Rico, which is all one big school district, is the third-largest school district in the country, behind New York and Los Angeles. That means there are hundreds of thousands of students and teachers working hard to get through the recovery efforts.

In South Carolina, one teacher says she’s grateful for the support her fellow teachers and students have shown her in helping her help her relatives on the island recover.

Azizeh Mubaslat (“Ms. Muba”), an English teacher at Greer High School says she’s touched by the support and aid given to her by others at the school, as she tries to help her grandmother, aunt, and cousins in Puerto Rico.

The Greer Hive Times, the student newspaper there, reported that they will “most likely be without power for 2–4 months.”

“It means so much to me,” Ms Muba was quoted as saying. The school is collecting any items that might help, “such as small toiletries, batteries, canned food, and anything with light such as flashlights and candles.”

For the recovery effort in Puerto Rico, it might be a worthwhile investment to rebuild the power grids underground. For example, I never lose power, and my power lines are underground. The island has been hit by two significant hurricanes this season, and despite the initial investment to create an underground power grid, it could save money in repairs next season.

Furthermore, the economy and schools don’t just restart after a storm like Maria. The lack of electricity to businesses and schools is the primary reason they stay closed as long as they do. That cuts deeper into an economy that is saddled with a huge debt already.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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