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CBE to hire teachers for up to 800 new students from Syria

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Fariborz Birjandian, head of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, said children of refugees require a lot of support, not only in adjusting to a new way of life, but trying to forget the trauma they’ve experienced.

CBE to hire teachers for up to 800 new students from Syria

EVA FERGUSON, CALGARY HERALD
More from Eva Ferguson, Calgary Herald
Published on: December 14, 2015 | Last Updated: December 27, 2015 7:10 PM MST

The Calgary Board of Education will hire new teachers as up to 800 additional students are expected to arrive after Christmas break.

With about 500 Syrian families landing in the city over the next several weeks, officials with the public board expect anywhere between 300 and 800 children to arrive. Schools are preparing for the complex educational and psychological needs of these new students. 

Students will initially be evaluated at the CBE’s Kingsland Reception Centre, which provides unique services to assess students new to Canada. Educational experts will assess the students’ language and numeracy skills and decide whether they can be placed in a regular classroom or become part of the CBE’s LEAD (Literacy, English and Academic Development) program designed for new Canadians.

Several LEAD classrooms already exist within public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. Depending on need, new classes are expected to be created and matched with newly-hired teachers.

“We have identified some empty classrooms in existing schools that could be opened up,” said Jeannie Everett, superintendent of learning.

But until need is assessed, she added, it’s difficult to gauge how many new teachers will have to be hired.

“It’s important to place them in an environment that meets all of their needs, so it’s difficult for us to tell exactly how many new teachers we’ll need,” she said.

“But we are working with the province right now for funding for that.”

Everett added that the CBE is well-experienced in placing international students, adding that 3,500 new Canadian students were added to the system just last year.

But this year, the 300 to 800 Syrian kids would be in addition to that annual average.

“We are not new to this. We have many supports in place to ensure their needs are met.”

As Syrian children are taken into the public system, Everett said officials are well-versed in dealing with complex needs, not just in learning and language acquisition, but also in post-traumatic stress after fleeing a violent war zone.

Adjusting to a more structured lifestyle and a new culture can also pose unique challenges, she added.

“Some of the students do have trouble adapting to a safer society, some have trouble adjusting when they’ve been in a place with no structure for so long,” Everett said.

After students arrive at the Kingsland Centre for assessment, Everett explained they continue to receive counselling as needed at their schools.

“We don’t abandon them. We have strategists, specialists, and psychologists who have expertise in trauma.”

Fariborz Birjandian, head of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, said children of refugees require a lot of support, not only in adjusting to a new way of life, but trying to forget the trauma they’ve experienced.

“These kids have been through a lot. Many have suffered severe persecution, they’ve lost family members, they’ve been subject to abuse, torture, sexual assault. It’s very difficult,” he said.

“And most have been one to two years out of school, and then suddenly they’re back in the system. It can be very difficult accepting a completely new environment.”

Birjandian said while the school boards have a lot of expertise in counselling students who have suffered serious trauma, the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society also provides long-term counselling programs for families and children.

Education Minister David Eggen said the province is now working with local districts to welcome thousands of new students from Syria expected to arrive in the province over the next several weeks.

“School boards are getting ready to welcome students from Syria and we are working closely with them. It’s exciting to be able to provide these children with the world-class education that we offer here in Alberta,” Eggen said in an emailed statement.

“Our education system is designed to absorb the influx of people who arrive in Alberta each year, whether they move from Saskatchewan or from another country, like Syria.”

Karen Ryhorchuk, spokeswoman for the Calgary Catholic School District, says they also expect to take in students from Syria in the coming weeks. Even though many are Muslim, they are willing to transition into a Catholic education for a variety of reasons, including geographic proximity to their homes. Up to 10 per cent of Syrians identify as Christian.

After students are assessed at the St. John Reception Centre, she said, they are placed in regular classrooms with continuous learning and psychological supports based on individual need.

With the expected influx of students from Syrian refugee families, the CCSD is not sure how many new teachers will have to be hired, but they are already working to find more interpreters.

“We have over 150 interpreters available in 41 languages. We are continuing to look for and train Syrian language interpreters, which include the languages of Arabic, Assyrian, Chaldean and Aramaic.”

For children from war zones, Ryhorchuk says refugee families are also warned about class bells, and on days there are fire alarms or practice lockdowns, families are told ahead of time and have the option of removing their child from school that day to prevent any possible trauma.

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Source: http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/cbe-to-hire-teachers-for-up-to-800-new-students-from-syria

 

 

 

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