Hurricane Maria will easily go down as one of the worst hurricanes in our lifetime. People still find themselves digging themselves out of the chaos she left behind. Hence why Connecticut opened its doors to help those in need. However, not everyone seems equipped to assist the displaced Puerto Ricans.
The Hour reports that Connecticut took in the 2nd highest amount of Puerto Ricans in the nation. The current count is at 1,700. Unfortunately, that number places an extremely heavy burden on our already stressed school systems.
Schools say they hadn’t anticipated taking in so many students. It means more desks, books, and teachers on hand that some places simply don’t have.
Problem is: the state plans on taking in even more Puerto Ricans. Hundreds more arrive every week.
Peter Yazbak, spokesman for the State Department of Education, says the state hopes that schools prepare themselves for the next wave:
“We sent out a survey to the districts, asking what are some of the unique challenges they’re seeing, what are some of the ways they’re dealing with several hundred new students they hadn’t planned for, and eventually we’ll figure out a way to help them cover costs and coordinate resources to absorb these students, but every week, we’re getting at least several hundred more.”
Some districts, especially in the bigger cities, say they’re already near max capacity. Yazbak elaborated:
“Hartford has the most and they really can’t take on many more kids. So I just noticed that West Hartford now has 11. We’ve been reaching out to districts in some of the surrounding cities, helping them coordinate transportation for the kids as districts become full.”
Brace for impact, I suppose. While helping those in need is a noble cause, the state should have prepared its schools better. Sure, the Governor says he issued “guidance” to schools about their new arrivals, but they should have also supplied the tools. We all know how expensive textbooks are.
By overwhelming the schools, the state endangers every child’s education. Especially the very kids our state wants to help.
It also places an unnecessary burden on teachers as well.
Not to mention the state already faces a shortage of teachers… Especially in the poorer districts where, ironically, the state sent the most Puerto Ricans.
Luckily, some districts fared better than others, either by planning ahead of by having fewer displaced Puerto Ricans. Norwalk, for example, took in 11 new students and two already went back home. Currently, the district says everything seems to be fine. For now.
Patty Foley, director of school improvement, admitted that no one’s sure how many more students the state will assign them. They also don’t know if the students will eventually go back home or stay in CT.
In the meantime, schools will report to the State Department of Education about their new students. Yazbak says by collecting information on the Puerto Ricans in the schools, the CSDE will provide better assistance in the future. Also, it allows the CSDE to provide better financial information to access funds distributed by the Hurricane Education Recovery account.
But the issue seems to be a current one, not something that’ll explode a few months down the road. Hartford, the district that struggles the most, currently houses 359 additional students. Waterbury has the 2nd highest amount of new students, at 252.
Either way, the state needs to move fast if it hopes to keep this self-created bubble they made from bursting. Sure, Connecticut is the state with some of the best schools, but by overloading them with students they don’t have the means to support harms everyone.
And, in conclusion, undoes all the good our state hopes to accomplish.
True, these people need help. But, at the same time, our state needs to make sure we can adequately meet their needs and not pass it off as a school’s problem.
What do you think? Should the state continue to take in more displaced students? What should Connecticut do to help them?