ORLANDO, Fla. - Some juniors and seniors who left their high schools in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria are in danger of dropping out, but the State of Florida is now trying to make it easier for them to graduate.
These teens realized that they don’t have enough time left in high school to earn enough credits to get a Florida diploma, so they are simply not enrolling, according to Orange County Public Schools.
Superintendent Barbara Jenkins and her counterpart in Osceola County, Debra Pace sent a letter to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on Dec. 22 to urge her to act.
In response, Florida’s Department of Education announced that such students can earn a Puerto Rico high school diploma if they complete 18 credit hours, 20 more hours of internship or work experience and 40 hours of community service.
The two superintendents initially proposed that Stewart let these displaced students be allowed to earn diplomas with 18 credit hours, or to take assessments in Spanish, which is the practice used by the College Board when it comes to students from Puerto Rico. They also proposed a third option of using a Spanish language GED test for students who did not want to enroll in a Florida school.
“Students from Puerto Rico entering Florida from the recent natural disasters have experienced tremendous dislocation,” they wrote.
Orange and Osceola schools have taken in 5,000 additional students who moved after hurricanes struck their homes.