School District 43 (SD43) has a long history of working with settlement groups to assist refugees.
Since 2012, successive waves of refugees have been welcomed in the Tri-Cities, and now school administrators are looking at how best to accommodate children fleeing war in Ukraine.
"We are well prepared to support refugee families from Ukraine once they have reached our community and connected with one of our schools," said Ken Hoff, communications manager for SD43, which is responsible for schools in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and Anmore.
Families who find temporary settlement in the Tri-Cities will have support through the Settlement Workers in Schools program, as well as help with translation.
Hoff said the district has been in touch with members of the Ukrainian community in preparation of the possibility that some students may arrive through efforts of the Maple Hope Foundation.
HOW YOU CAN HELP UKRAINIAN REFUGEES
The district's readiness comes as the B.C. government has announced a new, dedicated Welcoming Ukraine portal to provide information to Ukrainians who are moving to the province, as well as for British Columbians who want to volunteer or donate to show their support.
The website, which is also available in Ukrainian and Russian, complements Service BC's phone line and is part of a series of supports the province will be rolling out over the coming months.
Service BC's phone line is available at 1-800-663-7867.
Through this website, Ukrainians can connect to free services to
- find housing
- sign up for health-care coverage
- look for a job
- sign children up for school
- learn about other community services
In addition to supporting displaced Ukrainians, the website can be used by British Columbians who want to offer support to Ukrainians fleeing violence, including offering housing, employment opportunities or donations.
Most Ukrainians coming to B.C. are expected to arrive through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program.
Under this new federal program, Ukrainians and their family members will be allowed to stay in Canada as temporary residents for as long as three years, and Ukrainians will be allowed to apply for a three-year open work permit.
As of March 30, 2022, Canada has received more than 91,000 applications from Ukrainians under this new emergency travel program.
The federal government has not limited the number of people from Ukraine who are eligible to apply for the program. When Ukrainians arrive, they may settle in any province they choose.
B.C. is estimated to receive approximately 17 per cent to 20 per cent of arriving Ukrainians.
In 2012, Coquitlam-area schools assisted in the support of Bhutanese refugee students, and in 2016, schools assisted with hundreds of students who were refugees from Syria.
SD43 also has a long history in inviting international students to study in local schools.
And Hoff also said staff from the district's International Education program will assist Ukrainian families needing help with documentation.