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Displaced families arrive in Windham


Chronicle Staff Writer

WINDHAM/WILLIMANTIC — As of Friday evening, the Windham school district has had around 40 students arrive from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Windham Superintendent of Schools Patricia Garcia said Monday.

“We started the conversations and the preparations before they arrived,” she said. “We knew it would have an impact on the school district.”

Puerto Rico was recently devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria and, on Monday, much of the island was still without power.

Windham Town Manager James Rivers said the number of students from Puerto Rico is not overwhelming at this time.

“We haven’t seen a big influx of people yet,” he said. “They are trickling in.”

Rivers said while the number of students and families from Puerto Rico is not staggering now, the number could change.

“We’re being very observant to see what’s happening,” he said.

Elsie DeJesus, coordinator of client services at the Windham Senior Center at 47 Crescent St., who is bilingual, has been given the task of directing Puerto Rican citizens to services available in the community.

Town and school officials, as well as representatives from various social service agencies in town, have been meeting regularly to discuss the situation and the services available to Puerto Rican families.

While food, clothing, medical care and education seem to be “fairly easy to provide,” Rivers said housing has been challenging.

“We don’t have any public housing that has vacancies,” he said, noting there are long waiting lists at the public housing complexes in town.

Garcia said school officials have been discussing how to enroll students from Puerto Rico in the district.

“We feel the enrollment or the registration in the district is going very smoothly,” she said.

Students coming from Puerto Rico must register at the Family Engagement and Community Partnerships office in the Kramer building at 322 Prospect St., Room 235.

Garcia said one factor that must be considered is current enrollment levels at the schools, adding that a student from Puerto Rico may be sent to a school out of the neighborhood where they are living.


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