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Big-City School Districts Address War in Ukraine

  • Oregon’s Portland Public Schools has 285 students who speak Russian at home and to better serve these students the district offers a dual language immersion program in Russian, where students develop fluency in reading, writing, speaking and listening in English and Russian. According to district officials, the majority of students in the Russian immersion program are from Ukraine.

    In February, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Portland Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero issued a statement in support of Ukrainian students and their families. And in a follow up message, the district provided resources to guide discussion with students on the conflict in Ukraine as well as community resources in the Portland area and helpful articles from organizations such as the American Psychological Association.

    Recently, Guerrero conducted an interview with a representative from the Ukrainian-American Cultural Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, which appeared on Slavic Family TV, an online Russian-language news channel.

    The superintendent assured families that the district has counseling services available for the community and that the school system wants to do its part by helping get the word out about resources, hotlines and information that might be helpful to local Ukrainian residents. He also said that district officials plan to collaborate with community partners and any information they receive will be translated and posted on the district’s website.

    “I just want to make sure that I share with the broader community that Portland Public Schools stands with our families and with our students,” said Guerrero. “We want to make sure we do our part and if we can serve as a conduit to get resources and communication out to the Ukrainian community, please count on us.”

    Canada is home to a substantial number of people of Ukrainian descent and the Toronto District School Board has prepared tips on the district’s website to help parents whose children are experiencing difficulties.

    Parents are also encouraged to contact their school principal for more information about additional supports through the district’s Professional Support Services department.

    The School District of Philadelphia has provided counseling teams in each of its schools available for students and staff who are in need of support and has provided resources on its website.

    In addition, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is available to hold spaces for community conversations.

    “We hope that the crisis in Ukraine and all others impacting the communities we serve will end soon so that peace and healing can begin,” said Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite. “Until then, I look forward to coming together as a united school district community to support and care for one another.”

    New York City is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the United States and as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict escalates, its impact is echoing in classrooms across the nation’s largest school district, particularly among the many students and families with ties to Ukraine.

    The district has created a Conflict in Ukraine Resource Guide designed to help teachers better understand the current issues and events surrounding the war in Ukraine and to start meaningful conversations and help students understand the historical context.

    L.A. Approves Emergency Resolution

    The school board of the Los Angeles Unified School District recently approved an emergency resolution to provide humanitarian relief for Ukraine. Students, families, and employees will raise funds for child-centered humanitarian relief for Ukraine through its annual Consolidated Charitable Campaign.  The resolution also requests that the superintendent and staff develop an outreach strategy and fundraising campaign that establishes collection sites at all schools and offices throughout the district and those donations be given to a child-centered relief organization.

    The resolution, which passed unanimously, was sponsored by school board member Scott Schmerelson. “All armed conflicts are appalling with the worst impacts falling on innocent civilians,” said Schmerelson. “Through this resolution, I hope that our parents and teachers have access to age-appropriate materials to help explain the unexplainable to our children.”

    “Los Angeles Unified stands with the people of Ukraine against an unprovoked attack by Russian military forces,” said Los Angeles Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “Complacency is not an option. Our future hinges on protecting the health and safety of our world's children and their families.”