SANFORD, Fla. -- For many Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria, the start of a new school year was a little smoother than last year. 

  • Puerto Rican family displaced by Hurricane Maria start new school year
  • Reyes family left after months without power, water

At least that’s the case for the Reyes family based out of Sanford. 

Monday morning was as exciting as could be. Mary Carmen Reyes and her husband sipped their coffee as their three kids finished their Maizena, a traditional Puerto Rican breakfast. 

“I’ve seen such a good and positive change,” said Reyes about her kids. “They’re so happy since we moved here."

The Reyes left Puerto Rico in November of last year after spending months without power or water. For the younger ones, the transition into a new life has been quite easy. They start 4th grade, 2nd grade and VPK in a new school. What they might not understand though is why they’re no longer in Puerto Rico and how much sacrifice it took to get to Seminole County. 

“I’m here for them,” Reyes said through tears. “I didn’t leave because I couldn’t handle it. My kids deserve better than what’s going on in Puerto Rico and I want to give them the best opportunities I can.” 

In the past couple of months, the Department of Education in Puerto Rico announced the closure of hundreds of schools and things don’t seem to be progressing as fast as Reyes would like. 

“It’s sad to say this because I love my island, but things are not good,” she said. 

Per Orange County Schools, they stopped collecting data on hurricane student enrollment last April. Back then, 2,238 Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria had enrolled in the school system. Another 1,185 had withdrawn. 

In Osceola County, the school year ended with about 1,900 students from Puerto Rico, with 1,400 still in the system before school started. 

The Reyes aren’t going anywhere though. They have big plans for the future. 

“We’re here to work, we’re here to make a better life for us and we know we can do it,” Reyes said.