B.C. trustees want more support for refugee students

Letter to premier requests formation of new committee

Rick Hansen Secondary is one of several local schools that enrolled newly arrived refugee students last year.

Rick Hansen Secondary is one of several local schools that enrolled newly arrived refugee students last year.

B.C. school board trustees are calling on the province to set up a special committee to find ways to better serve refugee students.

A letter to Premier Christy Clark from the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA) praises efforts to welcome and accommodate new students who have recently arrived from war-torn countries.

In 2016, roughly 3,050 Syrian refugees settled in B.C., the letter says.

“Those numbers will continue to grow as individuals in crisis seek reprieve from oppression [and] the chaos of war,” BCSTA wrote. “As a society, we stand out as a beacon of hope and tolerance around the world.”

But supporting the new students, many of whom have complex psychological, social and health challenges, has proven a challenge for many schools, according to the letter.

The letter was the result of a motion passed by the BCSTA to request the province create a committee that would work with the federal government to secure more funding “for school districts to meet the complex and diverse needs of all refugee students and their families and ensure their future success.”

Abbotsford school board chair Shirley Wilson supported the motion on behalf of the board.

She said the district has adequate funding to support the education needs of the dozens of refugee students who came to Abbotsford last year, but she still found the motion to send the letter “easy to support.”

It is challenging when a student moves schools mid-school year because funding allocated to support them and hire appropriate staff does not follow them, Wilson said in an email.

“A provincial committee would look at the bigger picture, in the same way a district looks at the system as a whole.”

Abbotsford News

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