Reading schools plan for influx of students from Puerto Rico

3 from storm-ravaged island already enrolled

READING, Pa. - The Reading School District, already Pennsylvania's fourth largest, is preparing for the possibility of a sudden boost in its student enrollment.

Superintendent Khalid Mumin told the school board Wednesday night that the district is anticipating an influx of students as a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

"We know, and we're very cognizant and aware that we have several children, and parents, and families that are affected by the hurricane, because we're hearing it throughout the community," Mumin said. "My main goal is to make sure that our children know that their family members have a safe place, a welcoming place, and somewhere that they can continue on their educational journey here at Reading School District."

The superintendent's comments came two days after Reading City Council initiated a discussion about how best to accommodate a migration of people from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Mayor Wally Scott told 69 News that it's hard to know how many Puerto Ricans might make the move to Berks County, either temporarily or permanently.

"You could be talking hundreds of people that would be coming here to the city of Reading," Scott said, adding that he hopes the city would get federal funding to help with the transition, with housing being the main concern.

For city school leaders, education is also being considered.

"Our students [from Puerto Rico] will be treated as if they were homeless students, which means that they have a rights of FAPE -- free and appropriate education," Mumin said.

The superintendent said the district will walk the students and their parents through the process of obtaining the appropriate immunization shots and retrieving any paperwork that may have been lost in the storm.

So far, three students who were impacted by the hurricane have enrolled in the Reading School District, which has a current enrollment of about 17,500 students, 84 percent of whom are Latino, according to Mumin, who said that he doesn't see a need for more teachers.

"If the [student migration] numbers become massive, that's an opportunity for us to work with our school board and with our community, and if it has budgetary implications, we'll cross that bridge when we get there," Mumin told 69 News.

The expected migration will be a topic of discussion at a community meeting hosted by the Hispanic Center on Friday from 2 until 4 p.m. The center is located at 501 Washington Street in downtown Reading.

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