Yonkers leads way in taking on students displaced by Maria

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YONKERS -

State education officials are requiring Westchester County school districts to take in students who were displaced when Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia told Rye, New Rochelle, White Plains and Mount Vernon to take in new students -- but Yonkers' school district has welcomed the biggest spike in enrollment with 50 new children.

At the Robert C. Dodson School in Yonkers, second-grader Victor Velez received a round of applause. His little sister Valeria is across the hall in kindergarten, learning her letters.

"They are happy," says their father, also named Victor. "They love it here. They love the school."

Just four months ago Hurricane Maria destroyed the family's home and left them without power, food and water. They sought refuge with relatives in Yonkers.

"Yonkers is a place where everyone is welcome," says Superintendent Edwin Quezada. "Our classrooms are overcrowded...We are short over 4,000 seats in our district. (But) we create conditions. We make space."

Yonkers' bilingual programs and teachers helped socially acclimate the new students. Officials say they've adapted "really, really well."

The district also received students who were displaced after natural disasters in Texas, Florida and Mexico.

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