The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Students from Puerto Rico

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
January 12, 2018

As of January 5, 2017, Massachusetts public schools have enrolled 2,440 students from Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria and districts continue to welcome students. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) has provided guidance to districts regarding the enrollment of students, the placement of students with disabilities through the temporary IEP process, and the ability to hire displaced Puerto Rican educators.

On January 5, 2017, the Department issued $60,000 in federally-funded, competitive McKinney-Vento Homeless Education grants to assist 12 districts: Boston, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, New Bedford, Southbridge, Springfield and Worcester. These districts serve approximately 85 percent of the Puerto Rican students who came to Massachusetts after losing their housing due to hurricanes. Districts can use the money to offer a variety of activities, including tutoring, before- and after-school programs, and collaborations with mental health providers and community services. The 12 districts will receive $5,000 each.

Governor Baker has announced plans to request additional school funding to help school districts pay for the education of children who have been evacuated. In addition, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted last month to grant in-state tuition rates to evacuees from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have been displaced by Hurricane Maria. Community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts campuses will offer in-state tuition rates immediately and through the spring semester of 2018.

The Governor's office has posted a comprehensive listing of support for families from Puerto Rico.

We heard from superintendents that the arriving families needed winter coats. Board member Margaret McKenna, who is former president of the Walmart Foundation, reached out to the company, and Walmart generously provided approximately 650 coats and began distributing them before the holiday break to cities including Springfield, Worcester, Brockton, and New Bedford. In addition, students across the state are collaborating on a hat and mitten drive led by the State Student Advisory Council and Board member Hannah Trimarchi. We are grateful to everyone for their help.

Sarah Slautterback, Massachusetts Homeless Education State Coordinator, and Helene Bettencourt, Chief of Staff, have been working with other state agencies and the Executive Office of Education to coordinate efforts to support the students from Puerto Rico. Helene will be available at the January 23 Board meeting to provide an update and answer your questions.



Download PowerPoint File
Update on Students from Puerto Rico