KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Six months after Hurricane Maria, the Department of Education in Puerto Rico announced it will be closing more than 280 schools on the island.

  • Dept. of Education in Puerto Rico closes 280 schools
  • Influx of Puerto Rican students are enrolled in Osceola schools
  • Osceola school district now hiring more bilingual staff

The announcement came after seeing a reduction in enrollment of more than 38,000 students since May 2017. Spectrum News 13 has been talking to many of those students who now call Central Florida home.

A lot of them already enrolled in schools. They moved, many with their families, after the devastation left by Hurricane Maria, leaving everything behind. They believe, however, it was for the best.

“I can meet new people, I can meet teachers that are incredible, because for me it has been hard, but right now it’s a little easy thanks to one of my teachers, because he helped me a lot,“ said Dayivet Nahir Velez Zayas, a junior at Osceola High School who just moved from the island.

It's at Osceola High where she's met others in the same boat, like her friend Paola.

"We used rain water to cook, to drink, everything," said junior Paola Quiñones Ocasio.

Both juniors, they are now making the best of the situation, as there's probably no turning back to an island that's not yet back on its feet.

The Department of Education in Puerto Rico announced it will close more than 280 schools island-wide. That's because they've lost more than 38,000 students in enrollment since last year.

Many of those students like Paola and Dayivet, are now enrolled in schools here in Central Florida.

A big chunk of them is in Osceola County — the district moving fast to transition these students successfully. Most recently, quadrupling the amount of summer programs for these kids.

"This year we have opened 18 programs across the district for the needs of English language learners," said Belinda Reyes, Executive Director of Multicultural Department at Osceola County School District.

It's one of the reasons these girls are looking forward to staying in Central Florida.

"There's a lot of opportunities here, a lot of chances," said Quiñones Ocasio.

The Osceola County School District is also recruiting bilingual staff, including teachers.