NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — As Hurricane Maria churned toward Puerto Rico, Joseenid Martin Gregory put her sons Eliot Saez Martin, 9, and his brother, Elionet, 5, on a plane to be with their grandfather in Connecticut, fearing their lives could be in danger if they stayed on the island.

As the scale of devastation became clear, and the boys’ grandfather found no way to communicate with his daughter, he made arrangements to keep the boys here indefinitely. He bought notebooks and markers and enrolled his grandchildren at the local elementary school in New Britain.

“We didn’t think the hurricane was going to be catastrophic. With the situation Puerto Rico is in now, it’s difficult,” said Jose Martin, a landscaper. “I thank God that the children are here. They’re in school. They have food.”

The brothers are among the first of what are expected to be large numbers of Puerto Rican children enrolling in school districts on the U.S. mainland, particularly in urban areas from Florida to New York to Massachusetts, where families plan to open their homes to displaced relatives.

The districts plan to accommodate students with a unique set of needs: Some from the Caribbean island have limited English skills, some are already weeks behind because island schools have been closed since Hurricane Irma, and others will be dealing with trauma from living through the storm and its aftermath.

The Category 4 storm that tore across the island on Sept. 20 with winds of 155 mph left many to decide whether to ride out the months-long recovery, including the reconstruction of the electricity grid, or take refuge on the U.S. mainland. Since commercial flights have not yet resumed regular schedules, it will likely be weeks before districts have a true sense of the numbers.

Still, some are doing what they can to anticipate the scale of what’s to come.

In Holyoke, Massachusetts, where 80 percent of the 5,300 schoolchildren are from the island or of Puerto Rican descent, parents are being asked to let the school district know as soon as possible if they plan to put up any school-age relatives. In Hartford, Connecticut, the superintendent directed the welcome center to closely track the number of families coming because of the hurricane.

At the top of the list of concerns is the emotional well-being of students, not only for newcomers but also children whose relatives are affected or whose homes could suddenly become crowded with extended family.

“It wasn’t only going through the hurricane and listening to horrific winds and thinking there won’t be a tomorrow,” said Ileana Cintron, chief of family and community engagement for Holyoke schools. “The aftermath of scarcity, and people being very anxious about where they will find food, that definitely has an impact on children.”

Martin said his grandsons understand a big storm hit Puerto Rico, but he and his wife try to keep them distracted with trips to the park. Neither boy speaks English, and both are receiving special language instruction. Martin said they seem happy at their school in this city just west of Hartford.

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