HALL COUNTY, Ga. - A new school year has brought a new challenge for Hall County educators.
"So far we've gotten students from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and San Salvador,” said district spokesman, Gordon Higgins.
They are the Central American immigrant students the federal government classifies as "unaccompanied minors". The children fled their countries, alone, to come to the United States hoping to reunite with relatives already here.
The Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement reports 1,412 of these children are now in Georgia. Twenty-eight are enrolled in Hall County schools.
"What we found right away is that there is a very wide range of educational experiences with these students," Higgins said.
The students range in age from 6-17, but their age isn't a fair indicator of what grade they should enter, Higgins said.
"We had a 14-year-old immigrant student, who we found out through conversation and translation, had never been in a school in their life," Higgins said.
Higgins said the children are coming in with a deficit, but said the district's English Language Learner program can absorb them without additional funding, so far.
Hall County has long been a home to immigrants who come here for job opportunities. Four thousand two hundred Hall County students are already classified as English Language Learners. That's 15% of all students. The program receives $750,000 in state and federal funding.
Higgins said resources spent on these new incoming students are not coming at the expense of others.
"The same kind of services will be provided for them to have the opportunity to assimilate and to become a part of our educational process," he said.