4 Central Mass. school districts get state grants for new students from Puerto Rico after hurricane

Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced the first public funding to benefit school districts, including four in Central Massachusetts, that have received large numbers of students from hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico over the past few months.

But the $5,000 grants won’t make much of a dent in the total costs being absorbed by the schools systems. Worcester, for example, expects it will need around $2.7 million next year to serve the more than 200 evacuee students it has enrolled since Hurricane Maria battered the Caribbean in September.

Worcester, which according to the state’s latest count has enrolled 280 displaced students, is one of a dozen school districts across the state that has been awarded special McKinney-Vento Homeless Education grants to deal with the influx. Fitchburg (71 students), Leominster (57) and Southbridge (80) also each received $5,000.

According to a news release from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, school systems can use the money for “a variety of activities, including 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,” Mr. Baker said in a statement Friday. “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 Friday, Massachusetts had received in total around 2,440 students from Puerto Rico who were forced to leave their homes because of the hurricane, the state said. Of those, 85 percent are attending school in the districts receiving McKinney-Vento grants, which also include Boston, Chicopee, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford and Springfield, according to the state.


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