By Wendy Gragg
Killeen Daily Herald
As families flee Katrinas wrath and make their way to Killeen, local school districts are preparing a home for the youngest of the hurricane victims.
School-age Katrina refu-gees have alrea-dy begun enrol-ling as students in Killeen and Copperas Cove school districts and more refu-gee children are expected.
In response, schools and educators are flinging their doors and arms wide to welcome the children and provide a little normalcy amidst the maelstrom of devastation.
Were going to be able to meet their needs, whatever they might be, CCISD Superintendent Dr. Glenn Acker said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Education Agency both issued the word Wednesday that refugee students are to be welcomed in Texas public schools and provided for.
Perry said he knew the additional students would be a strain on capacity, so he asked TEA to see that districts have textbooks for the new students, funding for transportation and the free-and-reduced lunch program and even class-size waivers for districts helping large refugee populations..
A 30-day provision has also been added to the states immunization requirements, so the no shots = no school rule wont keep Katrina refugees out of the classroom.
Killeen and Copperas Cove school district officials spent Wednesday and Thursday figuring out how they can best help the new student population that is trickling onto their campuses.
Unofficial reports from Killeen campuses have put the number of refugee students at as many as seven, said KISD Superintendent Dr. Jim Hawkins on Thursday.
Because it is still the beginning of the year, the school district is seeing 45 to 50 new students enroll each day. Out of those new students, Hawkins said, the district has not yet officially identified which of them may be Katrina refugees.
Katrina refugees are not being coded as such but are being designated as homeless, Hawkins said. The homeless designation ensures that the maximum amount of services will be made available to them.
To register in school, parents are encouraged to bring anything they have in the way of health and education records.
But if they dont have it, it wont matter, Hawkins said.
Students staying with other families in Killeen will attend the home campuses of that residence. Children refugees who move into the citys shelter will attend Iduma Elementary, Manor Middle and Killeen High School.
Copperas Cove school district is bringing new students from the east into its fold as well. Acker said that 13 students fleeing from Katrina had registered at Copperas Cove schools by Wednesday afternoon. As more people flee the affected area, he said the district could see more students.
He said the school district is currently working with the families and with Commu-nities In Schools to see what the childrens needs might be.
KISD has 70 educators trained in crisis counseling primed and ready to be there for the refugee children as needed and help them through this difficult time. Hawkins said, as the students are identified, the district will try to keep up with them and see that their needs are being met.
Well be tracking students as carefully as possible and providing support wherever we can, he said.
Parents of Katrinas victims who have very young children may be able to find help through the Central Texas 4C Head Start program. Janell Sherwood, executive director of Central Texas 4C Inc., said there are slots available for 3- and 4-year-olds in the agencys four Killeen Head Start classes.
She said on Thursday that she was beginning to get calls about serving victims families. Head Start enrollment requirements have been relaxed in order to get victim families in the federal program.
The regional office has waived the usual documentation, Sherwood said. Theyre considered homeless and we can get them in.
Sherwood said that even if victims families have not been in Head Start before, they may want to consider the program because it can help with much more than early childhood education, such as help finding housing, food and jobs .
Its comprehensive services for the child and family, and its free, she said.
The Central Texas 4C Head Start programs in Killeen are in Marlboro Heights (690-8333), at East Ward Elemen-tary (526-1075), Sunset Head Start on Gilmer Street (526-5095) and Moss Rose Head Start on 20th Street (634-1886).
Contact Wendy Gragg at firstname.lastname@example.org