Almost 1,000 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Pennsylvania schools

Influx of Students from Puerto Rico

Nearly 1000 students from hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico are now in Pennsylvania and enrolling in school districts across the state.

In just one month the number of students enrolling has jumped from 102 to now 977.

David Volkman with the Pennsylvania Department of Education says, "It's quite a large number and we're not seeing it hit particular pockets."

The PDE says the highest number of students is in the Lehigh Valley but besides that area the numbers are pretty evenly spread across the state.

In Central Pennsylvania the Harrisburg School District has enrolled between 40 and 50 students, Lebanon has enrolled 73, and York City has enrolled 75 students.

State officials expect those numbers to grow.

Norman Bristol-Colon with the Department of State says, "The number one state Puerto Ricans are moving to is Florida, state number 2 is Pennsylvania so in the next few months we should expect the number to go double or triple."

Right now officials say they're equipped to handle the influx but as more students come they'll need more english-language services, more teachers to meet the 30:1 ratio, and more bilingual psychologists. They say this could become a financial issue.

"They usually have a fun balance of at least 10% for rainy day events and this would certainly be one of those events but again I think the districts will probably be looking for additional financial resources moving forward," said Volkman.

Bristol-Colon told CBS 21, "These kids went through possibly the worst nightmare in their lives," and because of that another issue they foresee is being able to provide the needed mental health services.

"The other thing we need to make sure these young people have is the kind of support necessary to work through some of those psychological issues they may be dealing with," said Volkman.

But for now their top priority is getting the students enrolled and because of the McKenney Vento Homeless Education Act, which these students fall under, they're able to enroll quickly and with minimal issues.

Volkman told CBS 21, "You set aside immunization requirements and certain other registration requirements that a district may have so those students can be enrolled in school expiditiously."

Volkman also says the PDE will be putting together a tool-kit comprised of numbers and contact information for those seeking resources that he believes will be available online next week.

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