Samah Hussein, 13, and Abdulraheem Qadour, 11, study on their laptops in a class for refugee children at Cajon Valley Middle School. Photo: Christine Armario/AP
El Cajon, just east of San Diego, has been a resettling refugees for years, reports Mark Keierleber on The 74. But now the Cajon Valley Union School District “is at the breaking point, faced with an influx of hundreds of kids needing millions of dollars worth of trauma, language, and remedial education services that the 26-school, 17,500-student district cannot afford.”
Since August — a year after the Obama administration announced it would admit more Syrian refugees — nearly 800 new students have enrolled in the El Cajon schools, the majority of them survivors of war-torn Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. That’s more than double the number of new students the previous school year.
Some refugees are placed in El Cajon. Others move there in search of “Middle Eastern grocery stores and restaurants, mosques, and Chaldean Catholic churches that support a growing Iraqi Christian population,” writes Keierleber.
The climate is great too.
But Superintendent David Miyashiro said the district, with an annual budget of $170 million, needs an additional $5.6 million to serve more than 700 new students. “We were given these new students without any funding, and that’s only baseline funding. That’s not counting the counseling and mental health support and English language development.”
Indianapolis has created a newcomer school for refugees, asylum seekers and other newly arrived immigrants, reports Chalkbeat Indiana. The school opened its doors in 2016 with 55 students and now enrolls almost 200.
Des Moines puts refugees and other immigrants in an intensive, short-term English class. More than 100 languages are spoken in students’ homes.