SDUSD Plans to Make Change to Refugee Education Program

Students will spend less of their time at the New Arrival Center and more time in classes at the school

For the last eight years a program within the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) has welcomed in thousands of refugees, helping them learn the basics before putting them in classes with local students.

Many come from refugee camps or countries where girls are not allowed to go to school.

Refugee children first go to a New Arrival Center (NAC) where they learn English as well as basic studies before entering classes with the rest of the students at the school.

They come from countries as diverse as Somalia, Haiti, Thailand, Syria, Burma as well as many others, and they often speak more than a dozen languages among them.

Now the District is planning to decrease a student’s time at the NAC and integrate them into the school sooner.

“We’re changing a little bit of the experience of arriving new to our school system, but we want to make sure they are both acquiring a language and acquiring graduation credits,” Fabiola Bagula of SDUSD said.

One superintendent told NBC 7 students will still spend some part of their day in the NAC to learn English, but they will be placed in math classes, and progressively others, with students in the school.

NAC teachers will travel with the students to class – all in an effort to make sure they get the necessary courses to graduate, according to the District.

“It's not without support. It's with support. We don't want anyone to fail,” Bagula said.

The president of the Teacher’s Union said their concern is the level of support will not be adequate, leaving students who do not have basic skills without recourse.

“The concern of our members is before you can just throw the students in there they need a set of foundational skills to be able to access,” Lindsay Burningham of the Teacher’s Union told NBC 7. “Some of these students are starting from the basics and through the New Arrival Center program they've been able to be successful as we've seen with students being able to graduate this year.”

“Change is hard for everybody and there's an interpretation ‘if they want change it must mean what I did was wrong,’ and that's not what we're saying,” Bagula said. “We're saying we need to strengthen our practice. We need you in a different way.”

The District says between refugee students who are placed in the NAC first and those who are not, 12% more graduate when the not placed in the NAC initially.

The president of the Teacher’s Union said out of 36 students at Crawford High School’s NAC 35 will graduate this year.

The District will make a decision about the change in the next week.

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