LAKE MARY, Fla. -- Some two dozen students, teachers and staffers joined Seminole County School Board Chairwoman Amy Lockhart in receiving, sorting and packing disaster relief supplies for Puerto Rico brought in by countless citizens last Friday and Saturday in a large bay on Rinehart Road.
Most of the items were loaded into three largest U-Haul trucks and transported by plane Tuesday from Orlando-Sanford International Airport to San Juan. The equivalent of a truckload remained behind for the expected arrival of several thousand Puerto Rican families in Central Florida over the next few weeks and months, said Lockhart as did officials from other school districts along the I-4 corridor, including Osceola, Orange and Volusia counties.
Seminole County Schools will continue accepting relief aid items over the next week through Friday the 13th, which Lockhart sees as a blessing rather than a curse for those who are superstitious. "Every day that we receive items that are needed for the families who will be starting their lives over is a blessing," Lockhart said as this was planned out by Seminiole County Schools Superintendent Walt Griffin with she and her colleagues at a Sept. 23 workshop before the regular board meeting.
In fact, Seminole County by that point was already finalizing its plans in assisting families relocating from hurricane-affected areas of Puerto Rico. Chief among them is waiving school records for 30 days so students won't miss any more time than they already have because of Hurricane Maria. Many of the Puerto Rican families are expected to stay with relatives for the time being. Free hot lunches and job referral services for the parents and older children will be offered, too.
Seminole County Schools will continue accepting relief aid items over the next weekItems still needed: Flash lights, solar power chargers, water filters and boxes. Also, school supplies are needed for incoming students from Puerto Rico: Notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, pencil cases, loose-leaf paper, crayons, highlighters, backpacks and markers.Donations will continue to be accepted through Oct. 13, at the SCPS Pre K Building/ESOL Family Connection Center, 239 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary.
Other Central Florida school districts have since devised similar plans.
"Families will not be turned away," Volusia School district spokeswoman Nancy Kriz told Headline Surfer in an email exchange. "Students will be quickly enrolled so they can begin attending school right away. Necessary documentation, such as medical and immunization records, will be waived for 30 days. Students will be immediately eligible for services such as free meals, transportation and school supplies. Every effort will be made to help these families feel welcome and safe.
Likewise, Orange County Public School officials have said they, too, stand ready to help families from Puerto Rico looking to escape the devastation on the island.
"Should we receive students and families from Puerto Rico, we will assist them in making the transition as smoothly as possible," district spokeswoman Lorena Hitchcock said in a prepared statement sent out to Central Florida media outlets.