20 Nov 2015
Count the Hartford school system as one of the institutions welcoming Syrian refugees with open arms.
Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said Thursday that she has appointed a coalition of school staff that will work with Catholic Charities to prepare for Syrian families that might resettle in Hartford and enroll their children in the city schools.
“In recent years, Hartford became the home of families from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and other parts of the world,” said Narvaez, noting that more than 60 languages are spoken in the schools.
“It is our obligation and responsibility to assure that all children under our care receive a quality education, and this planning effort will help us make sure that the transition into our schools is as smooth as possible for these children and their families.”
In the past five years, officials said, the school system and Catholic Charities, which handles resettlement services in Hartford, have aided more than a thousand refugees — including people from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, Nepal, Iraq and Afghanistan — who have made the city their new home.
Narvaez’s announcement came a day after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy met with a married couple and their 5-year-old son from Homs, Syria, who were relocated to New Haven after the Indiana governor refused them. Since Friday’s attacks in Paris, Malloy has been particularly outspoken about welcoming Syrians seeking political asylum, arguing that it is “the morally correct thing to do.”
“The little guy shook hands with me,” Malloy said of the Syrian boy. “He put his hand out and he looked me straight in the eye, and I complimented his parents that the young man knew when you shake somebody’s hand, you make eye contact. It was pretty impressive.”
The Hartford schools and Catholic Charities’ team will include staffers across a range of departments, from policy and instruction to operations and community engagement.
“Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford has successfully resettled refugees … in the Greater Hartford area for more than 60 years,” said the agency’s chief executive officer, Marek Kukulka, adding that the children would be ushered into the city schools “as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Mayor Pedro Segarra has already offered up Hartford as a “sanctuary” for Syrian refugees, who must undergo extensive vetting by the Department of Homeland Security before they are allowed into the U.S. After an initial approval, it could take up to 18 months before they enter the country.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to all who are affected by the terrorist attacks in Paris,” Segarra said in a statement released by the mayor’s office Thursday. “This horrible tragedy has devastated so many families and the impact will last for years to come. Let us come together now and prevent fear from compromising our American values of compassion and inclusion.”