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Harrisburg School District helping hurricane-displaced students

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- A total of 193 new K-12 students have come from Puerto and Florida to the Harrisburg School District since September 25.

Similar to areas such as the Lebanon and Lancaster school districts, officials say they are prepared for more to come over the next several months.

Superintendent Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney said the district is trying to become a continuation of displaced students educations.

But like other central Pennsylvania school district, Jaimie Foster, school improvement administrator, said a challenge is getting them in the right place without any available records due to hurricane damage.

She said they continue to work hand-in-hand with families and students to try and pick up where they left off.

"Worst case scenario, if we're not able to provide anything we're working with, in each school, if necessary to provide entrance exams, end of unit exams to get an idea of what students know and where we might believe they'd best be placed," said Foster.

OF the 193 new students, ESL Supervisor Kathy Ames said 113 of them qualify for the ESL teaching program helping with the english language.

She also said he district has added four extra helpers through the substitute teacher program due to a double in the amount of students.

"Over time, if those numbers sustain and those students actually become a part of the Harrisburg school district, then we will look to hire additional staff members to address their needs," said Ames.

Saundra Goodrum, the McKinney-Vento homeless liaison for the school district, said 120 of the students are considered homeless, waiting for the rest of their families to arrive and settle in their new home.

"The vast majority are doubled up, living with another family. Some are in shelters, some are in hotels, but the vast majority are staying with someone else who's name may not be on the lease," said Goodrum.

But according to Jamianne Krall, a social worker at John Harris, said the overall adjustment for students has gone well.

"Many of our students just really want to learn and they want to opportunity to continue their education," said Krall.

Officials said they are asking for help from agencies that help provide behavioral health services.

They say they cannot handle the load of helping students through this difficult situation on their own.

There will be a community fair Wednesday at the Foos School from noon-2 p.m.

At least 10 agencies are planning to be there to show resources available in the area to help families with the transition.