Educating the Refugees

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

Twenty years ago when the first waves of refugees arrived from southeast Asia, the Wausau school district was unprepared because they didn't know what to expect, but as school officials tell us, that's absolutely not the case this time around.

At a morning meeting Thursday, officials from the Wausau and D.C. Everest districts got together to discuss plans for assimilating the more than 200 students who for the most part don't speak any English.

It's the same situation as the last time there was a mass migration, but this time school officials say they are more than ready.

"We are so fully educated in, now, I think, with staff members that know ELL English Language," said Nell Anderson, Wausau School District.

D.C. Everest is borrowing a lot of ideas from the Wausau district, since this is the first time Everest has had to deal with such a large number of foreign students.

"Some of the real challenges for the D.C. Everest school district are establishing newcomer centers, which we didn't have before," said Trudy DeSimons, D.C. Everest special education.

The newcomer centers will work as half-day long orientation classes that will help ease the Hmong students' transitions into life in the American classroom.

As far as funding goes, the schools officials say they will get some federal help, but it still won't be easy considering the budget constraints they're already under, but that aside, they say they will find a way to integrate the refugees regardless of the funding.

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