When Ana Sears' sons in Puerto Rico learned public school for their children would be closed at least six months after Hurricane Maria, the sons' families made their way to Massachusetts. 

"No water. No food. Six months is really bad," Ana Sears said as she waited with her sister at the New North Citizens Council, the city of Springfield's official welcoming center for people fleeing the Caribbean island. 

Her adult sons found jobs and are living in her basement with their wives and children. Now those children attend the Springfield public schools. One granddaughter is in first grade.

"She’s adjusting very well," Sears said. "She’s learning English very fast. She didn’t know anything. She’s a quickie one."

Like Sears’ granddaughter, most of the students coming from Puerto Rico don’t speak English. They need special attention to learn the language, but the district hasn't been able to add more teachers.

"But we’re doing the best that we can with the resources that we have," Karin Shatos, an elementary English as a Second Language teacher, said.

Gov. Charlie Baker has said he intends to ask the Legislature for more money to help, but Springfield school officials say they need that money now.

"We’re wondering: what’s the magic number to get more staff?" Shatos said. "Where would that staff come from? Where would the funding for that staff come from? Is there even a magic number?"

Besides learning English, these kids have other challenges. At least a quarter of the kids who have arrived so far have special education needs.   

Springfield Assistant Superintendent Lydia Martinez said the district needs more staff to help these students.

Then there are the kids who arrived as seniors. Martinez worries they won't pass the state's standardized exams required to graduate since they don't speak English and have studied under a different curriculum.

"We’re working diligently to see what we can do for those children. Because it’s not their fault what happened to them," Martinez said.

Springfield has asked the state to waive the MCAS graduation requirement. So far the state has said no.

Martinez says she doesn't think it's fair to require these newcomers to pass the MCAS.

"I don’t think what happened in Hurricane Maria is fair. So nothing that's happening with Hurricane Maria in my eyes is fair," she said.

Fair or not, Martinez said Springfield educators are determined to love and share resources with all of the children who arrive from Puerto Rico.

Our coverage of K-12 education is made possible with support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.