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Education

Tampa Bay Area Schools Open Doors To Puerto Rican Students

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Public school districts across Florida have seen an influx of thousands of new students fleeing Puerto Rico following the devastation from Hurricane Maria.

More than 5,000 students from Puerto Rico have enrolled in Florida public schools since Hurricane Maria.

In the seven weeks since the storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, the majority of schools in Puerto Rico still don't have electricity or running water.  While most students have settled in Central and South Florida, school systems across Tampa Bay were also impacted.

In the days following Maria, Governor Scott directed the Florida Department of Education to waive the need for transcripts and immunization records for students from Puerto Rico.

According to the latest information, Hillsborough County Public Schools has taken in 476 students from the U.S territory. The second highest influx in Tampa Bay is in Polk County, with 464 displaced students. Elsewhere, Pinellas County Schools report an enrollment of 125 Puerto Rican students, Pasco County, 122, Hernando County, 66 and Sarasota County, 25.

Puerto Rico’s school district is one of the largest in the U.S. with roughly 350,000 students and 1,100 schools.

Additionally, The Florida Department of Education's latest records indicate the state's public schools have taken in close to 700 students from the U.S Virgin Islands.

At the direction of Governor Scott, the state’s Education Commissioner Pam Stewart also signed a supplemental order authorizing state colleges to waive existing rules and requirements to help Puerto Rican students more quickly enroll in college. All 28 Florida College System institutions have agreed to offer in-state tuition to Puerto Rican students who were impacted by Hurricane Maria.

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