Education

20,000 students from Puerto Rico can use Florida Virtual School

Francisco Martinez, 9, a student at the public school Jose Facundo Cintron, waits in line Sunday to get gasoline with his family in the town of Yabucoa after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico on September 20.
Francisco Martinez, 9, a student at the public school Jose Facundo Cintron, waits in line Sunday to get gasoline with his family in the town of Yabucoa after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico on September 20. pportal@miamiherald.com

Florida Virtual School — the state’s official provider of online-only learning — plans to accept 20,000 students from Puerto Rico who have been displaced by Hurricane Maria.

The resource is available to those students regardless of whether they’re still in Puerto Rico or have relocated to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said in an announcement Thursday.

“Families in Puerto Rico have experienced extreme devastation of their homes and communities due to Hurricane Maria. As they work to rebuild their lives, these families should not have to worry about their children falling behind in school,” Scott said, touting that Florida’s public schools “offer a world-class education.”

“I am glad that Florida Virtual School has stepped up to help these families as they rebuild their lives,” Scott said. “The state of Florida will continue to do all we can to help them during this challenging time.”

The governor’s office advised that Puerto Rican families interested in signing up for Florida Virtual School should contact Liz Chico at 863-606-8033.

Classes through Florida Virtual School are free to Florida residents, while nonresidents typically pay tuition. The internet-based public school was established by the state Legislature 20 years ago.

RELATED: “Give Florida schools leeway to take in displaced Puerto Ricans, lawmakers ask state”

Scott reiterated Thursday that all of Florida’s 67 county school districts are prepared to accept displaced students from Puerto Rico, some of whom have already started to enroll.

Officials at the Florida Department of Education said earlier this week they would issue “a summary of guidance to all districts and continue to work with school districts on additional issues as they arise.”

No announcements have yet been made by Scott’s administration in response to a formal request by lawmakers earlier this week, who asked that county school districts be assured additional funding and granted flexibility from certain state mandates in taking in Puerto Rican students.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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