Posted: Monday, August 11th 2014 at 7:24pm
Number of Central American refugee students rising in Hall Co. schools
By B.J. Williams Administrator
Dr. Eloise Barron, Assistant Superintendent for Hall County Schools (right), told school board members the number of Central American refugees is increasing on a daily basis.
GAINESVILLE - Classes have only been in session for two days for the 2014-15 Hall County school year and one of the biggest challenges so far is making accommodations for the Central American refugee children who have arrived in classrooms across the county.
Dr. Eloise Barron, Assistant Superintendent for the Hall County School System, told board members at Monday evening's work session that most of the students who have arrived at school over the past two days come with the federal government refugee settlement forms that mandate they be enrolled in school. Others, however, do not have those documents.
"We're also getting some students where individuals have a parental affidavit - they're not really the parents, but they are able to enroll the students in school," said Barron. "They do not have that paper from Texas or wherever."
Barron pointed specifically to numbers from Chicopee Woods Elementary School, where two refugee children enrolled Friday. On Monday, 11 additional refugee children had enrolled and Barron said the principal had been told 5 more children would enroll later in the week. The students were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to Barron.
When asked by board members how many refugee students in total had enrolled in Hall County schools, Barron estimated close to 50. Superintendent Will Schofield, however, cautioned against releasing numbers, noting that those numbers would likely change several times in the next two weeks.
The numbers aren't the biggest issue facing the schools, though. Schofield said the refugee student population is a "different group of students than we're used to dealing with."
Barron agreed, noting that many of the refugee students have gaps in their education.
"Normally, when we have students transfer in from, say Mexico, they have some school records that come with them. With several of these we've already identified that...they have no proof of any formal schooling," said Barron.
She said it's not the elementary age students that are the most behind. She said a number of high school age students appear to have large lapses in education.
She said the most extreme case has been that of a 14-year-old girl who has never attended school in her life.
"We know she is from El Salvador, we know she's been in the country before...but the girl has never attended school for one day," said Barron.
Assessing the students and then placing them in the proper classroom will be the biggest test, and as Schofield said, that assessment may take a few weeks to complete.
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