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ABSS estimated to enroll another 40 to 60 refugee students for upcoming school year

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Alamance-Burlington school officials say they are estimating that between 40 and 60 refugee students from 13 countries and four continents will enroll in ABSS schools for the upcoming school year that begins in August.

“Of the 200 refugees arriving in Alamance [County] annually, about a quarter are K-12 school aged children,” ABSS officials told The Alamance News this week.

School system officials said they have been told that, of the refugee children who are expected to enroll in ABSS schools for the upcoming school year, 23 are elementary school students, 10 are middle school students, and 14 are high school students.

ABSS officials were informed of the plans to enroll refugee students in the local school system during a November 2022 presentation by representatives with Church World Service (CWS), a nonprofit with offices in Durham and Greensboro that’s working to assist refugees who have been displaced from their homeland due to natural disasters, political violence, and/or persecution, based on information the school system provided to the newspaper at the time.

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“The vast majority of our refugee students were at Highland, Turrentine, and Williams, based on the attendance zones secured for their housing upon arrival,” ABSS public information officer Les Atkins told the newspaper Monday.

ABSS chief academic officer Revonda Johnson gave a brief update on refugee students during the school board’s latest work session last week. “We know we’ll get another influx in August,” she said, adding that the number of refugees expected to enroll for the 2023-24 school year “isn’t quite as high” as the number that enrolled in the school year that ended earlier this month.

“We want to visit what we can do, possibly, for the future for our newcomer kids,” Johnson told school board members last week, noting that ABSS would like to “have some type of newcomer center” and that “nearby districts have that model.” School board members didn’t take up a discussion of that topic during their work session.

The school system provided the newspaper this week with a breakdown of the countries represented by the 40 to 60 refugee students who are expected to enroll in ABSS for the 2023-24 school year. The countries include: Afghanistan; Burma; Central African Republic; Chad; Colombia; Congo; Egypt; Guatemala; Honduras; Senegal; South Africa; Syria; and Zambia.

Church World Services has opened an Alamance County office that’s based at the CityGate Dream Center, a nonprofit located at 1428 North Church Street in Burlington, Atkins told the newspaper.

The “Dream Center,” as it’s informally known locally, originally opened in November 2015 and moved its current location in January 2018, according to the organization. It describes itself as a community center that provides English as a Second Language and computer classes, music and art classes, summer camps, and educational support for diverse children and families in Alamance County.

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