Halton District School Board welcomes Syrian refugees in Oakville

Syrian boy in school at a desk
Halton District School Board welcomes Syrian refugees in Oakville
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Since December 2015, the Halton District School Board has welcomed 12 Syrian students in Milton, Oakville and Burlington. The Board has been advised an additional 13 students are expected to arrive in the coming weeks. While Halton Region is not among the seven communities designated to receive federally-sponsored Syrian refugees, the Board anticipates more refugees will be arriving in the coming months as Halton is a location of choice for many privately sponsored refugees.

Halton, and Ontario, are home to one of the most diverse populations in the world, where generations have come to build new lives. The Halton District School Board is committed to working with all levels of government to assist in the coordination and preparation for the arrival and settlement of Syrian refugees. According to the Halton Multicultural Council (HMC Connections), approximately 100 refugees are welcomed to Halton on an annual basis. The current commitment to resettle Syrian refugees will increase the number of those settling in Halton in 2016.

To date, the Halton District School Board has supported the settlement and inclusion of refugees into our elementary and secondary schools and communities through our Welcome Centre, located inside Gary Allan High School in Milton (the former E.C. Drury High School) at 215 Ontario St South.

“We are pleased that in our own small way, we are contributing to the much needed aid of those who have lived through and continue to face great challenges in their homeland,” says Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board. “We are grateful for the opportunity to support our Federal and Provincial governments in this humanitarian cause.”

The following actions are being taken by the Halton District School Board to ensure a successful transition for Syrian refugees:

  • With support from, and in consultation with, the Ministry of Education and the Federal government, the Halton District School Board will help settle Syrian refugees and integrate them into our communities, through our Welcome Centre, and into our elementary and secondary schools.
  • Halton District School Board representatives are coordinating efforts with Provincial and Municipal governments, as well as with numerous other stakeholder groups (e.g., Region of Halton, Halton Multicultural Council, etc.)
  • All students who are new to the Halton District School Board and who speak a language other than English as their first language visit the Welcome Centre as their point of entry to receive settlement supports and academic assessments.
  • The Halton District School Board’s School Programs department is developing English Literacy Development (ELD) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programming and instructional supports and resources for teachers.
  • ESL instructional program leaders, in coordination with the Welcome Centre and schools, will support classroom learning and co-curricular experiences in academically appropriate and culturally responsive and relevant approaches. Examples of some resources developed include Q&A scenario-based documents, lesson plans appropriate to English Proficiency Assessment levels and entry points within the grade and subject curriculum, Arabic specific teaching tools and lessons to include all students in literacy learning through Arabic/English translation.
  • A central resource teacher will be assigned to assist with the process of coordinating support for schools for ESL and ELD students. Based on volume and levels of language proficiency, schools may need assistance in integrating refugee students.
  • School administrators will attend professional learning sessions with their ESL/ELD teachers to learn about targeted and focused supports for welcoming students and families, engaging newcomer families into school life, and developing a support network to enhance and enrich the learning experiences and inclusion of all newcomers in their communities.
  • Ongoing support for all newcomers to the Halton District School Board includes orientation programs about the Ontario educational system and requirements. Newcomers are also provided information about the processes and programs specific to the Halton District School Board, the provision of interpretation services, as well as the translation of Board and school documents. Furthermore, information about parent and student engagement through Community Connects programming is available to promote academic success and social and emotional health.
  • The Halton District School Board welcomes donations through its ‘Fill A Backpack’ campaign and/or other donations of school supplies and clothing (e.g., winter jackets) through the Welcome Centre. Information about the ‘Fill A Backpack’ campaign can be found on the board website at www.hdsb.ca by searching ‘Fill A Backpack’ or ‘Welcome Centre’.
  • Many schools are engaged in initiatives to support Syrian refugees as they arrive and continue to grow and learn and become members of our Halton communities. For example, Oodenawi Public School in Oakville has developed ‘play kits’ to provide to students when they arrive at the Welcome Centre. The Halton Learning Foundation provides donations to students in need, including Syrian refugees.
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