12 Massachusetts school districts serving Puerto Rican evacuees get federal grants

Twelve Massachusetts school districts will share $60,000 in federally funded, competitive McKinney-Vento Homeless Education grants, the Baker-Polito administration said Friday.

The districts serve about 85 percent of the Puerto Rican students who came to Massachusetts after losing their housing due to hurricanes.

Boston, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, New Bedford, Southbridge, Springfield and Worcester will receive $5,000 each.

The districts can use the money on tutoring, before- and after-school programs and collaborations with mental health providers and community services.

“Massachusetts’ schools, colleges and universities have played an integral role in supporting students and families from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press release. “We are pleased to be able to award these important McKinney-Vento grants to a number of communities who opened their schools to those in need, and we look forward to working with the legislature to provide additional funding this fiscal year to any school district impacted by unexpected students.”

As of mid-December, more than 2,100 students from Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria were enrolled in K-12 schools across Massachusetts.

In November, Baker announced plans to request additional school funding to help local school districts pay for the education of children who have been evacuated.

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 through the spring semester.

“Whether it’s been their schools, their homes or their local first responders, cities and towns across the commonwealth have stepped up as a major partner in our relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Maria,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. “We are glad these grants are available to help provide support to so many local cities and towns with proud Puerto Rican communities.”

“While visiting Boston last month, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said families evacuating the island are concerned about their children’s education. These funds will enable school districts to help these families with some of the support they need,” state Education Secretary James Peyser said.


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