District seeing influx of students following disasters

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

With the natural disasters that hit the nation and the Caribbean in recent months, Bristol has opened its classrooms for displaced students.

During a recent Board of Education meeting, Director of Special Services Dr. Michael Dietter said the district anticipates an influx of children and families into Bristol, and 11 students are currently enrolled.

These students were displaced as a result of Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and the earthquake in Mexico. In late September, Gov. Dannel Malloy and State Department of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell announced suggested protocols to ensure that any student arriving from Puerto Rico or any affected storm area, has immediate access to school and expedited connections to the services they may need.

Among these protocols include automatically qualifying the students to receive free school meals and providing them with health and other related services.

As the district moves forward with these efforts, Dietter told commissioners that he would provide updates to the board.

“We are participating in statewide conferences with emergency services to help coordinate and understand what the impact has been on communities throughout the state,” said Dietter, adding how the district also is coordinating with community-based resources in Bristol on a weekly basis.

Recently, a group of students started attending Central Connecticut State University after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico disrupted their studies.

As reported in an article published in the Hartford Courant, 20 students from the University of Puerto Rico started an eight-week semester at CCSU, where the majority of students are seniors majoring in biology, chemistry, and other sciences.

Communications professor Serafin Mendez-Mendez told the Courant that the classes will be a combination of online and in-person, and many professors volunteered to teach.

Mendez-Mendez is exploring ways to cover the student’s financial needs through government grants and other funding. He told the Courant that the students are able to attend through the CCSU-UPR Airbridge program he helped create.

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.