Blog: Latino Ed Beat

School Districts Report Enrolling More Central American Students

As the first day of school fast approaches, districts around the nation are noticing an increase in the number of Central American children registering for class.

By law, school districts must enroll students that live within the zoning boundaries, regardless of their immigration status.

The enrollment spike appears due to the large number of unaccompanied children who have crossed into the United States recently from countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

The students often have language challenges, in addition to dealing with the trauma of having been exposed to violent situations in their home countries.

“We have both a legal and moral obligation to teach these kids,” Miami Dade County Public Schools superintendent Albert Carvalho told the Wall Street Journal.

He said Miami had enrolled 300 new children from Central American countries in the final quarter of last school year. Concerned about tight resources, the school board voted to request that the federal government provide additional funding to handle the increase.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Journal that districts could rely on funding from other pools dedicated to groups such as migrant, homeless, and special education students.

In Oakland, California, teachers have watched as Central American students struggled in school due to outside challenges.

“They were so preoccupied with the other things going on in their life, primarily legal stuff,” but also health and mental health,” Nate Dunstan, the district’s contact for refugee students, told the San Jose Mercury News.

The district school board is scheduled to vote on whether to accept outside grant funding from two foundations to hire an “unaccompanied minor specialist” to track students.

Are your local school districts seeing an influx in students from Central America register? If so, how are they preparing to handle the increase — financially and educationally?