Over the past few weeks, public schools in Worcester, Massachusetts, have seen an influx of more than 50 new students from Puerto Rico whose families have been temporarily or permanently displaced by Hurricane Maria.
"I think they're coming to Worcester because they do have family here, the city has been preparing since the hurricane occurred," said Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda.
The school committee has been brainstorming ideas to best serve those primarily-Spanish-speaking students.
One proposal is to request that the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education – or DESE – relax its licensing requirements to allow Puerto Rican teachers who have also been displaced to teach in the city.
"Perhaps they can make some adjustments and bring them on board with us," said school committee member Dianna Biancheria, "if they have the qualifications and they were teaching in Puerto Rico."
"I think it would be great to formalize some sort of process so that maybe we can capitalize on a lot of the talent that is down there," said Roberto Diaz with CENTRO, a non-profit community organization based out of Worcester.
Diaz is not only working closely with Puerto Rican evacuees, but can identify with the displaced students, as he came here from Puerto Rico when he was 9.
"It wasn't easy to kind of acculturate to a new area, but when I went to school and I had teachers that were Puerto Rican, it kind of made me feel I was at home," Diaz said.
DESE released a statement, saying, "We're actively exploring what the process would be and how it could be put into action, but we do not have anything definite yet."
"They'll probably have to deal with it on a one-on-one basis when they look at the qualifications of the person and see if they're eligible for waivers until they can get their certification," Binienda said.