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Northeast Ohio Schools Report Increased Puerto Rican Enrollment After Maria

Puerto Rico aftermath

More than two months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, a handful of the Big 8 school districts in Ohio say they’re seeing an influx of students in their public schools.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is reporting the largest number of Puerto Rican students enrolled so far this school year, with more than 190 families seeking help since the Sept. 20 storm. Jose Gonzalez, who heads the district’s multicultural multilingual office, says CMSD began preparing for the students before the storm hit by first advising teachers and principals.

“You are about to receive a huge influx of English Language Learners from Puerto Rico, more than ever,” Gonzalez said.

Language barriers are just one challenge for Ohio school districts, though. Gonzalez says students also carry emotional baggage.

Other Big 8 districts have enrolled new Puerto Rican students in smaller numbers. Youngstown has 50 students in its district, while cities like Columbus, Toledo and Dayton are reporting less than a dozen each.