NISD updates on Burmese students and district needs

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The Nacogdoches Independent School District says there's a new 'opportunity' for a community and educators to serve a population of Burmese refugees.

School administrators hosted their second community meeting tonight. Planning for about 200-300 Burmese children, a hiring freeze, redrawing of attendance lines, and reconfiguration of middle schools were just some of the topics addressed.

Adoring photographs of Burmese children were shown as a tool of putting a face to the issue of providing an education.

"When you put a face to our Burmese people then our teachers, you could just see the tension level come down because that's what our teachers do, they teach," said Ronnie Knox, Assistant Superintendent of Education for NISD.

Knox said numerous teachers have said, "sign me up" to teach in the Newcomer Center, a proposed facility where the children will gather before deciding if they're ready to be mainstreamed with the general school population.

"We're going to have to spend some time accessing every child that comes in and see what kind of skills they have and what we're going to do with them and that will drive what we do," explained Dr. Rodney Hutto, NISD superintendent. "Right now, we're still just trying to gather information to do the best we can with what we know."

This week Pilgrim's Pride, where the refugee workers are employed, provided a list of children's ages to the district. Also Hutto visited School of Americas in the Houston Independent School District. Curriculum specialists will return in March. Another visitation of the Alief School District, where many Burmese attend school, is scheduled in May.

Burmese workers began arriving last week and continue to do so to take jobs at Pilgrim's Pride in Nacogdoches.

We'll have continued coverage on this topic in the coming weeks.

On Sunday night at six, Austin Heights Baptist Church will host a community meeting addressing the Burmese immediate needs.

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