Students Displaced By Hurricanes Seek Education In Jamestown

Recent disasters in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have forced four elementary-aged students to seek education in Jamestown Public Schools.

Jamestown Public Schools currently has one student from Puerto Rico and three from the Virgin Islands that were forced to move because of the recent hurricanes

Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, New York State Education Department has advised schools in the state that students seeking education from places like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are protected under this legislation.

“We’ve all resigned the fact that there’s going to be more students,” said Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent.

Apthorpe said Jamestown Public Schools are prepared for more students, but doesn’t think it will be “unmanageable influx of students.”

Apthorpe also said with declining enrollment over the last few years Jamestown Public Schools aren’t “hurting for space.”

He estimated that if Jamestown was asked, the district could house 100 to 200 students.

However, Jamestown Public Schools currently has 21 students, including the four students from U.S. territories affected by hurricanes, that fall under the McKinney-Vento Act.

The McKinney-Vento Act was a response to homelessness in the 1980s. In 1986, the Urgent Relief for Homeless Act was introduced. It was renamed to the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act when it was signed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1987 following the death of Rep. Stewart B. McKinney, who was the legislation’s chief sponsor.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton renamed the bill the McKinney-Vento Act after the death of Rep. Bruce Vento, who was leading supporter of the act.

Under McKinney-Vento, displaced students from U.S. territories are protected and provided education while their home remains unsafe.

In related news, the New York State Board of Regents has made it possible for teachers who were affected by the recent hurricanes to seek employment in the state. Regulations have been adjusted, so teachers can receive a temporary certificate while staying in the state.

A statement said the motivation behind the move is the concern that displaced students may have trouble transitioning into predominantly English speaking schools and that employing teachers from Puerto Rico, who are also displaced, smooth out this transition period.

“(Monday’s) action by the Board continues our efforts to assist those children and families impacted by the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Betty A. Rosa, board of regents chancellor in a news release.