Central Florida schools take in Puerto Rico students fleeing earthquakes

Florida

A Puerto Rican flag hangs within the rubble, after it was placed there where store owners and family help remove supplies from Ely Mer Mar hardware store, which partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, killing one man, injuring others and collapsing buildings in the southern part of the island. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WESH) — Orange County public schools have already taken in 150 students displaced by Puerto Rico earthquakes.

Colonial High School in Orlando’s Azalea Park has taken in 13 students who have had to flee damaged homes and schools in Puerto Rico.

The school’s principal, Hector Maestre, expects more students will be coming.

“Our number one goal, as I said, is to get them acclimated as quickly as we can, get them in classes, but also talking with them, connecting with them to make sure they know there are services on campus to tap into to support them,” Maestre said.

Maestre said four of the students who came to his school are seniors and one was already accepted at both Michigan State and Iowa State.

He said his staff is doing all it can to make sure the students are able to continue with their college plans despite the fact several no longer have paperwork or transcripts.

“We have students with homes damaged, schools they were attending damaged, neighborhoods crumbled, so for them to come here has been a jarring experience. So to be able to come here and just to return to normal, that’s what they have appreciated about coming here,” Maestre said.

The infrastructure damage and the stress of living in constant fear has many Puerto Rican families choosing to come to Central Florida, and Orange County schools said they are prepared to help the displaced students any way they can.

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