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In Katrina's wake, local school districts accepting students from the Gulf Coast


September 07, 2005 - By BILL MILLIGAN

For the Call

Area school districts last week began accepting a wave of students from school districts in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Lindbergh School District officials said last week they were enrolling two and three families per day in their schools.

"We'll do whatever it takes to help those folks put their lives back together,'' Super-intendent Jim Sandfort told the Call. "We're thinking about contacting schools in the Gulf area to try and establish contacts.

"The people of this community will not sit on the sidelines. What we've seen on television is so powerful we are looking for ways to step into the breach and get their lives stabilized,'' Sandfort said.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Nancy Rathjen told the Call that the Missouri Department of Elemen-tary and Secondary Education Aug. 31 is-sued guidelines for the handling of refugee families from Hurricane Katrina.

"We want to remind you that such children who move into your district qualify as homeless children,'' Missouri Commis-sioner of Education Kent King wrote in a memo to school administrators throughout the state. "There should be no barriers to enrolling them in school promptly. They may not be excluded because of lack of school or immunization records ...''

King also wrote, "The disaster in Louis-iana and Mississippi is unprecedented. The nation will be called upon to assist that region with recovery and rebuilding for months to come. I know that Missouri educators will do everything in their power to help provide a secure and welcoming environment for families who are dislocated by this natural disaster.''

Rathjen said Lindbergh is establishing a task force to support those families who have migrated here from the Gulf Coast.

Officials with the Bayless and Affton school districts said last week they are receiving students from the Gulf Coast as well.

"We've received a few students today and understand we will see a few more tomorrow,'' Affton Superintendent Don Francis told the Call. "These people need help and we're going to do what we can. We won't get any substantial funding, but the needs of these children outweigh funding issues.''

Bayless officials said they have taken in children from one family as of Friday.

Hancock Place Superintendent Ed Stew-art said his district has fund-raisers under way at every building.

"We haven't had any enroll yet,'' Stewart said. "We want to help. We'll take those students.''

Mehlville Superintendent Tim Ricker did not return a telephone call, but in a memo sent to principals, faculty and staff stated, "Mehlville is a very caring community. Our thoughts are with the victims of the hurricane. Let's join together and do what we can to help our neighbors to the south during this tragedy.''

Lindbergh pupils raised $21,000 in one day of fund raising last week, while Mehlville students raised more than $1,000 through various fund-raisers, news releases from the two districts stated.

"If a family moves into the Lindbergh School District, we're asking them to let us know,'' Sandfort said. "We've met with our mothers' clubs and PTOs and they want to help. We're looking for ways to help.''

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