Puerto Rican teens who evacuated after Hurricane Maria's devastation can still earn a high school diploma from their home island while completing their work in Florida, the state Department of Education has informed superintendents.
If the students fled the storm, are currently enrolled in a Florida public school and had attained 11th or 12 grade by the time Maria hit, they can pursue this option, K-12 chancellor Hershel Lyons wrote in a late December memo.
That means the students can graduate with different requirements than if they were to complete a Florida diploma. To earn a diploma in Puerto Rico, students must have minimum of 18 course credits, 20 hours of occupational experiences (which may include mentoring, internship or work experience) and 40 hours of community service.
The course credits are less restrictive than Florida's. Puerto Rico also does not mandate a minimum grade-point average, and it does not have an exit-level standardized testing component.
Education commissioner Pam Stewart reached out to her counterpart in Puerto Rico in November to make this arrangement possible. The state is coordinating with Puerto Rico to get student credits transferred and to get transcripts delivered.
"In the meantime, any student choosing this option and transferring back to their school in Puerto Rico will not count in the denominator and/or adversely affect graduation rates." for Florida schools, Lyons told superintendents.