Hurricane Maria has brought more than 100 new students to the Rochester City School District.
100 students from Puerto Rico alone have moved to Rochester in the last month or so and a total of 110 have come from hurricane-affected areas, according to RCSD chief accountability officer Ray Giamartino. District officials have no idea how many more may come.
“Really our conversations, our direct conversations with the American Red Cross and Catholic Family Center aren’t able to really provide any predictive numbers by virtue of not having personnel on the ground in Puerto Rico to communicate to get a sense of who’s definitively coming,” he told WXXI News.
Without someone in Puerto Rico asking every American there where they plan to move to next, there’s no way of knowing how large the influx will actually be. Rochester may be more than 1800 miles away and one of the snowiest cities in America, but it’s home to tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans or 10 percent of the total city population, meaning Americans leaving the island may want to unite with loved ones up here.
The District has partnered with organizations in the community for an action plan, Giamartino says. This way they can focus on both the transition in school and at home. They’ve partnered with Red Cross, Monroe County, the City of Rochester, Catholic Family Center and Rochester Housing Authority.
“As you know when students or families are exposed to traumatic events we want to make sure that, of course, we provide access and consistent opportunity for them to engage with counselors if they need to do so,” said Giamartino. “[We] want to assure families that as they enter the District and register, we’re going to focus on both their academic and their social and emotional needs.”
Hurricane Maria made landfall in late September, destroying whole islands and leaving Puerto Rico with virtually no power. The death toll is currently up to 48 but experts think this could be much higher, even as high as 450. As a result of the murky numbers, Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York and Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi have requested an audit of the official death toll.
Giamartino says the District will continue to accept incoming students and use District resources to help them continue their education state side.