Delayed legal documents prevent Puerto Rican students from starting school

Hundreds of students yet to be enrolled on first day of class

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – It is week two for students in Orange County schools, but there are still students who aren't in class.  Hundreds of kids have yet to be enrolled well after school has started.

School officials say this is common. Scott Howat, Chief Communications Officer with Orange County Schools, said the district is expected to see a 5,000 student growth this year. 

"I think, as of ten minutes ago, they just enrolled 144 families or have seen 144 families. So, you know, they're doing between 150 and 200 a day that they're seeing," Howat said. 

Dimarys Tolaedo has tried to enroll her stepson at University High School for the past few weeks. He moved to Orlando from Puerto Rico, which gave her limited time to get him enrolled. 

Because he's from Puerto Rico and she's not his legal guardian, Tolaedo had to physically walk into the student enrollment office to get things squared away. She said the process to get an appointment took weeks. The earliest she can see an employee in the office is a week after students have already been in classes.

"I complete all the requirement, but the register verification guardianship not complete because the office didn't have appointment in the website," Tolaedo said. "No date available."

She tried the website, but said she couldn't make an appointment. She said she called the office daily as well. 

Those concerns were brought to Orange County School's Superintendent, Barbara Jenkins. Jenkins said cases like Tolaedo's may take extra time due to legal guardianship and paperwork.

"We have been open until 7 at night for several weeks and on Saturdays as well," Jenkins said. 

​Howat said staff with student enrollment services have been busy.

"There were appointments this week last Friday. So, they are about three or four, five days out," Howat said.

School officials said they have looked into Tolaedo's case and are working to find out why it may have taken a longer time for her to get an appointment. School leaders said that generally, people can make an appointment in a few days time.

"The appointments are a little far out, but they can certainly go first thing in the morning and try to get a walk in appointment which they are available," Howat said.