U.S. Schools Take in Haitian Students
South Florida districts provided smooth transition after earthquake
Within 24 hours of the earthquake in Haiti last year, two South Florida school superintendents began planning on how to help with the refugees they knew would soon be coming. Miami Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Broward County School Superintendent James Notter worked together to form a task force of agencies to prepare for the influx.
"We didn't know their needs—human, medical, or school," said Notter, a 37-year veteran of the education system.
The taskforce was made up of health organizations, social service agencies, community-based agencies, and the Child Services Council (CSC). It was a true community effort, Notter told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
One of the groups in the taskforce was the County Health Department, which provided shots and physicals for all of the incoming Haitian students. Without the health screenings and immunizations, the kids would not have been able to go to school.
Another member of the taskforce, the United Way, provided backpacks and school supplies.
Once medically screened, it became critical to track and assess all of the children. Student names were put into an electronic database. With a click of a button, Notter was able to find out who is where within the system. Each and every Haitian student has a student number and then a code attached to that student number.
"We wanted to make it as customer-friendly as possible," Notter said. He said the taskforce wanted the kids to feel comfortable and settled as soon as possible after such a traumatic event.
The consulate in Miami, where diplomats from Haiti live and work, supported the school system by supplying translators.
Today, 645 of the 1,091 original students taken in remain in the Broward County School system. Seven adult Haitians remain in an adult program.
"I need to re-emphasize that this was a valuable community effort," Notter said. "It could not have gone so well if the whole community had not come together."
CRISIS IN HAITI: ONE YEAR LATER
More than a million people remain homeless and schools are just now being rebuilt in Haiti a year after the country's capital city was devastated by a major earthquake on January 12, 2010. Scholastic Kid Reporters continue their reporting on the earthquake with stories about how people are continuing to help the embattled country in the Crisis in Haiti: One Year Later Special Report.
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