Daniel Zhao

The city of New Haven and its public schools are preparing to receive and support Puerto Ricans displaced by a series of devastating natural disasters, including a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that recently rocked the island.

Two years ago, after Hurricane Maria devastated the island and displaced 130,000 people, the Nutmeg State welcomed 10 percent of those individuals. About 1,000 of those displaced Puerto Ricans have since settled in the Elm City. Last week, New Haven again made clear that it is prepared to welcome those affected by natural disasters via coordination efforts and material support.

“We stand with Puerto Rico, and our hearts go out to all those affected by this disaster,” Mayor Justin Elicker and New Haven Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ilene Tracey said in a joint Jan. 9 statement. “The Elm City is ready to accommodate those seeking refuge in this perilous time.”

This year’s initial earthquake occurred on Jan. 7 and has been followed by a series of aftershocks that have collectively produced over $100 million in damages and displaced around 2,000 individuals, according to the Washington Post and the humanitarian organization Direct Relief.

New Haven’s public officials have committed to providing supplies, clothing and transportation backed by funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In 2018, the federal government budget allotted $35 million nationwide — some of which went to the Elm City — for services to help students recover from traumatic events like natural disasters. Additionally, following Hurricane Maria, New Haven received $400,000 from the governor’s office to support efforts for new residents.

Those residents included 212 students who enrolled in New Haven public schools as of June 2018. Many of them required special resources such as English language learner classes, special education, mental health services and school supplies. As was the case following Hurricane Maria, NHPS is now prepared to accommodate those students needing bilingual or special education.

Asked about the joint NHPS and City Hall statement, Sarah Miller, a co-chair of the Elicker transition team, told the News that New Haven should “aspire to be a ‘sanctuary city’ in all its meanings.” A report published by the Elicker transition team recommends that Elicker affirm New Haven’s role as a sanctuary city within his first 100 days in office.

The NHPS Youth, Family, and Community Engagement Department will coordinate communications and services for families arriving in the school system.

Mackenzie Hawkins | mackenzie.hawkins@yale.edu

Nick Tabio | nick.tabio@yale.edu