Governor Wolf Encourages Schools to Prepare for Ukrainian Refugees

Governor Wolf today announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has provided guidance to schools as they begin to welcome refugee families from Ukraine with school-aged children.

“We have all watched with immense sadness as Ukrainians endure horrific and unprovoked attacks on their homeland. We will now have the opportunity to mitigate the tragic aftermath of this horror for some of the youngest Ukrainian refugees,” Governor Wolf said. “I know the people of Pennsylvania are extraordinarily generous and welcoming, and will embrace their new neighbors. This is especially true in Commonwealth schools, where the daily work is centered around the needs of children.

PDE Secretary Noe Ortega said his staff encourages schools to familiarize themselves with their responsibilities under state and federal laws.

“In anticipation of an influx of Ukrainian families coming to Pennsylvania in the coming weeks, it is imperative that our school communities are prepared to provide high-quality educational services to new students in a seamless and efficient manner,” said Dr. Ortega.

In a letter sent to school communities, PDE reminded school districts and charter schools of their legal obligations related to enrolling and providing services to refugee students.

  • School districts and charter schools must ensure that they do not unlawfully discriminate against or prevent students from enrolling in public school because of their citizenship or immigration status, and Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires children and families with limited English proficiency to receive translation. and interpretation services to the extent necessary to help them understand the registration process and be quickly enrolled in school.
  • A newly arrived child must be allowed to attend school on the school day following the day the child is presented for registration, and in any case within five working days of the school receiving the documentation required.
  • Like all students, refugee children are entitled to appropriate special education services. Refugee students must be screened and identified before being referred for a special education evaluation in accordance with state law and receive all necessary special education services like any other registered and identified student.
  • Schools should identify student English (EL) learners and take positive steps to ensure they receive appropriate language support services to enable them to participate meaningfully in educational programs. Additionally, school districts and charter schools must communicate information to EL parents in a language they can understand.

Refugee children who are not yet of school age may also be eligible to participate in early childhood education programs to prepare them for kindergarten, facilitate access to childcare and family integration, and to offer holistic sessions with parents and children.

PDE will continue to work with schools to ensure that the educational needs of refugee students and families are met. Programs and services that may be offered to support refugee students by schools include, but are not limited to: supplemental EL instruction, after-school programs, parent and community outreach programs, cross-cultural activities, professional development for school staff and resources to develop culturally appropriate practices and create a welcoming school environment.

The governor also supports legislation providing $2 million in public funds to provide quick and flexible support to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict who may come to Pennsylvania.

From day one, Governor Wolf has supported Ukraine and will continue to do everything in his power to support the country and its people.

Pennsylvania is home to more than 122,000 Ukrainians, the second largest US state.

In recent years, the Commonwealth has deepened its commercial relationship with Ukraine. With the support of the Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development under the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Ukrainian companies have chosen to locate in Pennsylvania.

For more information on Pennsylvania education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education website or follow PDE on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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