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April 01, 2022

Gov. Wolf instructs Pennsylvania schools to prepare for Ukrainian refugees

The first refugees to the Philadelphia region arrived earlier this week. Many more are expected

Education Schools
Ukrainian Refugees Pennsylvania Janis Chakars/For PhillyVoice

As Pennsylvania prepares to accept Ukrainian refugees, Gov. Tom Wolf instructed to prepare for teaching refugee children. The image above is from a February rally held in Philadelphia in support of Ukraine.

The United States is accepting up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine and some already have arrived in Philadelphia. 

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to ensure the Pennsylvania's schools are ready to educate the youngest among them. The Pennsylvania Department of Education sent guidance reminding schools that refugees have an equal right to education. 

The letter notes that refugee children must be permitted to attend school the day after they are presented for enrollment or within five business days of a school receiving all required documentation. Schools must ensure students who are still learning English have the language services they need to participate. They also must screen students to determine whether they need to be placed in special education classes.

Refugee children who aren't old enough to attend school may be eligible for other early education programs.

Pennsylvania has the second-largest Ukrainian community of any state, with 122,000 residents claiming Ukrainian heritage.

"We have all watched with tremendous sadness as Ukrainians endured horrific and unprovoked attacks on their homeland," Wolf said. "Now we will have opportunities to ease the tragic after-effects of that horror for some of the youngest Ukrainian refugees."

Wolf also commended the introduction of a state Senate bill which would set aside $2 million for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' refugee resettlement program. The money would be distributed to private contractors that will help the refugees find housing and employment, and to learn English and other occupational skills.

The first two Ukrainian refugees were arrived in Philly earlier this week. Alla Pukhteska, a theology teacher, and Veronika Matviienko, a choir director, walked to Poland from Ukraine and were sleeping in a McDonald's in Warsaw before they were granted visas to the U.S. They're currently staying at the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral's rectory in the Northern Liberties.

About 4 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country Feb. 24.