The number of refugee students in Jefferson County continues to rise at a quick pace and the agencies responsible for their resettlement say extra funding being appropriated to them has improved their relationship with the school district.
Previously, federal Refugee School Impact Grant funding was only awarded to Jefferson County Public Schools in the region.
Since last year, Kentucky Refugee Ministries and Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services—both support refugee resettlements—have received their own RSIG funding and officials say the extra cash has been a big help.
“We finally, for the first time, have field trip money, money for backpacks and uniforms and other supplies that come as needed,” says Adrienne Eisenmenger, youth services coordinator at Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
For a while, these two organizations have been liaisons between the school district, families and many students who are resettled in the U.S. not knowing English. Officials say each organization received around $30,000 this year, a $5,000 decrease from the year before.
JCPS received almost $200,000 in RSIG funding.
“It has helped us hire a part-time person who is now working with youth services. It has also helped us expand to have other people involved in our tutoring program,” says Eisenmenger.
Both agencies also have summer programs that partner with JCPS to provide English language services as well as math and science lessons, she says. The agencies supply volunteers and organize the program; JCPS provides curriculum support, Eisenmenger says.
For Catholic Charities, it means students receive case management there is a much better system supporting the students from the agency’s end, says Mary Grandinetti, Catholic Charities’ youth services coordinator.
“Having a youth services coordinator, we were able to pinpoint the kids who would most benefit the most from the program and made sure that none of them slipped through the cracks,” she says.
One of the biggest needs is helping the parents and families navigate the school system; often there isn’t even a working contact number, Grandinetti says.
“It’s really great that we’re able to connect the parents more with the schools and maybe bring them to a parent teacher conference, or sit down on the phone with the school, with the parents and have a conversation and then afterwards be able to say did you understand everything?” she says.
Over the past year, roughly 500 school-age children were resettled in Jefferson County, officials say.
That number is expected to rise, Eisenmenger says.
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