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Niagara Falls Schools Ready For Afghan Refugees

The nation’s longest military campaign ever recently came to an end in Afghanistan.

With what could, most optimistically be described as decades of mixed results, the U.S. withdrawl led to the Taliban reclaiming control of the country and necessitated the exit of several Afghan citizens, many of whom were helpful to the United States during its military efforts.

A number of those Afghan refugees will be heading to Niagara Falls for resettlement in the next several months.

Falls Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie said 10 refugees have already settled with 40 more soon to arrive. Of the first 50-slated arrivals, 22 will be school-aged, said Laurrie.

“Most of those will be in primary school,” he added.

While diversity is already a primary component of the Niagara Falls School District, Laurrie said there are already18 different languages being spoken in the schools, incorporating the new group of youngsters will provide some unique challenges.

The schools had been preparing a few years back to incorporate Congolese students, but with political changes at the national level, Laurrie said, “That stopped cold turkey.”

Now, the schools need to revisit the process of planning for students from a culture, and with an educational system, much different than ours.

“I’m told they will come with no school records,” Laurrie said, “no transcripts, things of that nature. It will take a while for us to get to know each other and get a feel for each other, to make them feel welcome.”

One way the district is planning to help the youngsters with their transition is to have them go through the same schools together regardless of where they choose to live in the city.

It’s likely they will attend either Kalfas or GJ Mann at the elementary level before moving on to LaSalle Middle School and eventually Niagara Falls High School.

To accommodate the new students the district will have to undertake assessment and placement to determine the level of education each student is prepared for upon arrival, as well as to complete additional teacher hiring and training.

“I understand another 150 Afghan refugees will be arriving in the city by September or October,” Laurrie said. While not all of those will be school-aged, some will.

One non-instructional way the schools can help make the new families welcome is to provide them with opportunities beyond schooling, such as employment.

“We are hiring, I can get some of them jobs right away, whether its with the bus company or as associates in the schools. We need help in our kitchens, and on our janitorial staff as well,” said Laurrie. “We have jobs.”

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