As Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, many Ukrainian families are fleeing to other countries to find peace and safety. For those that come to Alberta, school divisions are working to accommodate their unique needs.
For the 2022/2023 school year, Wolf Creek Public Schools has welcomed 10 students from Ukraine, with students settling into schools in Rimbey, Bluffton, Alix and Lacombe. The school division also had three students from Ukraine that arrived last spring and finished out the school year.
“Ever since the conflict started, shortly thereafter we started to get information coming forward from groups such as church organizations, indicating that families from Ukraine are being sponsored in the area and they would be enrolled in Wolf Creek schools,” explained Tim De Ruyck, superintendent for the division. “Through our education services department, we’ve been working with these organizations.”
De Ruyck said the division does what it can to meet the needs of these incoming students, whether that be the help of a translator, addressing social emotional needs or additional information for families since everything is so new to them.
“We certainly meet with the organization sponsoring the families initially, even prior to their arrival, and get a sense of what their needs might be,” De Ruyck said. “Once they’ve arrived, we can help with the online registration process and we give them a tour of the school and introductions to staff. If the student is comfortable, we also do an oral language assessment to get a sense of what the student’s needs may be and communicate that with all classrooms teachers that might be involved.”
De Ruyck said families often have questions about the school and how the process works, for example communications with the school, reporting procedures, the breakfast and lunch programs and extracurricular activities.
“It’s all new to them and we just go through absolutely everything to try and give them as much information as possible and we stay in touch as they begin with us and carry forward,” said De Ruyck. “Besides the situation they’re coming from, this is a huge transition. It’s a new country, new school, new process. We don’t make any assumptions, but we don’t take anything for granted. We want all the supports in place that need to be there.”
De Ruyck said the experience has been very positive so far.
“We want to do all that we can,” he said. “The board made that clear in a statement they made in February last year, that Wolf Creek will do everything it can to support this overall effort.”
When asked why the school division has decided to step forward in such a fulsome way, De Ruyck explained, “I think, overall, it’s an expression of empathy and compassion. We live in a country where, thankfully, we haven’t had to deal with those kinds of circumstances in recent history and we just want to extend our support as a school division in any way we can because we have compassion for what those families have been and continue to go through.”