Local schools prepare for undocumented students

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by Lucy Bustamante, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 19 at 5:43 PM

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY -- School districts across Virginia have been told to prepare to educate more than 2,800 undocumented children, mostly from Central America, who crossed the border as part of the recent wave of immigrant children entering the United States. 

The Virginia Department of Education sent a letter to school districts in July stating that school districts were required to educate undocumented children, although they may not meet residency requirements.

Click here to read the letter

According to the letter, schools "may not deny a free public education to undocumented school-age children who reside within their jurisdiction because they do not hold valid United States citizenship or a student visa."

Prince William County housing immigrant children

The number of undocumented students expected in each district is unclear, despite school starting in many districts next week.

Isle of Wight County Schools spokeswoman Kenita Bowers said they are expecting some immigrant students to enroll in their schools and they are preparing teachers -- including those who teach English as second language.  However they have not been officially notified by the state or federal government how many students to expect.

"We have been proactive in preparing teachers and programs to ensure that there is an inclusive environment where all students can learn to achieve academic success in Isle of Wight County Schools," Bowers said.

Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors vice-chair Rex Alphin told 13News Now he welcomes as many students as the state needs to place in their district. 

"It's a tragic situation. We're getting ready to take in kids who may not have a mother or father, who are considered homeless, and we have to have an attitude of grace," Alphin said.  

He feels Isle of Wight County Schools are ready for an influx of students thanks to the work of the administrators of special education.

Virginia Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle tells 13News Now that schools will receive federal money to help offset the cost of educating the additional students, but the exact amount won't be reported until the end of the week.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is preparing for a school supply drive.

"We have been waiting for direction knowing there are so many of the children in Virginia," said Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Olga Torres.

She says once they know the number of students from the Virginia Department of Education they'll know how many items they need to collect.

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