Palm Beach County Schools Enrolling Students Displaced by Hurricane Dorian

Public schools in Palm Beach County, Florida are helping students from the Bahamas who have been displaced from their homes following Hurricane Dorian by enrolling them in local schools.As of September 11, at least 15 students from the Bahamas have enrolled in the district, according to Palm Beach County School District spokeswoman Julie Houston Triste.

After registering, Bahamian students will be placed at a school depending on where they are staying, WPTV reported. Students without documentation of immunizations will also be able to attend school as Palm Beach County Schools will waive those requirements for 30 days while the district gets the records updated.

“They need to get back to being safe, they need to get back to being around kids around their age, they need to be around a teacher, they need structure, they need that support, and they also need the counselors,” Deputy Superintendent Keith Oswald said.

“It’s been a traumatic experience for these families and it’s so important the kids receive not only their educational component, but the mental and social principles as well,” he told WPEC.

The Palm Beach County Schools central welcome office states on its website that it welcomes students and “families of new K-12 students whose first language is not English or who were born or attended school outside of the United States.” The center will not only provide help with registration but also with services like interpretations, grade-level placement, free immunizations, and advising students on which courses they should take.

According to CNN, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County is helping displaced Bahamian students by distributing backpacks filled with school supplies. The foundation will also open its school supply store so families from the Bahamas can stock up on school supplies for free.

Hurricane Dorian caused destruction when the Category 5 storm landed on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands during Labor Day weekend, leaving 70,000 people on the islands homeless. The storm killed at least 50 people and officials expect that the number will increase.

Customs officials told the Sun-Sentinel that there were nearly 1,500 Hurricane Dorian survivors who arrived in Palm Beach on a cruise ship on September 7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a press conference on September 10 that Bahamians who have been displaced by the storm are welcome in Florida, but must have passports, visas, and a place to stay, according to the publication. DeSantis implied that those who do not meet the proper requirements should go elsewhere.

"If you’re somebody who needs assistance and you don’t have a place to stay [in Florida]... the Bahamian government would probably prefer folks use some of the resources that are there,” DeSantis said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

The governor’s comments come just a few days after President Donald Trump said the US must “be very careful” about allowing Bahamian people into the country following the storm.

“I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers," he said, ABC News previously reported. "We are going to be very, very strong on that.”

On September 11, NBC News reported that the US will not grant temporary protected status to Bahamians who were displaced by the storm. Despite this, there are institutions in the US that have reached out to help evacuees. Hampton University announced on September 5 that it was partnering with the University of the Bahamas to help displaced students in the Bahamas by offering them a free fall semester, along with free room and board, at the university.

“I think this agreement is something that can be helpful to a great number of students and families, and is part of something I’ve tried to do my entire career — helping people to achieve and meet their goals,” Hampton University President William R. Harvey said in a statement.

NBA legend Michael Jordan also announced he was donating $1 million to the islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian. In a statement released by his spokesperson and manager, Estee Portnoy, he said he would donate to nonprofits that “will have the most impact.”

“I am devastated to see the destruction that Hurricane Dorian has brought to the Bahamas, where I own property and visit frequently,” Jordan said in a statement. “My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering and those who have lost loved ones.”

To find out more on how to help those impacted by Hurricane Dorian, click here.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.