The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development cannot confirm how many Syrian refugee children will be enrolled in New Brunswick's schools, but Tammy Strong, the department's diversity and respect co-ordinator, says about 40 per cent of those expected to arrive in the province will be under the age of 12.
"Currently, we have fewer than a dozen who will be registering at anglophone schools this week," she said.
However, Strong said the department expects many more in the coming months and most of them will be attending anglophone schools.
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A University of New Brunswick education professor has said there are questions to be answered about how the educational needs of those children will be met.
"I'd like to know how many children will be entering the system, that would be nice to know, I'd love to know if they are going to be hiring EAL teachers in the schools and if there is money allotted for that," Paula Kristmanson said.
EAL stands for English as an additional language and training people to teach EAL is Kristmanson's specialty.
She took part in discussions with the provincial government about what was needed to prepare for the influx of refugee children into New Brunswick's school system.
She says in addition to having suffered trauma, refugee children may come with particular challenges for educators.
"Some of these children have had interrupted schooling, have had gaps in their educational journey, so they've been out of a structured school system for a while," said Kristmanson.
"The trauma that some of the children have experienced, this might also be a challenge for schools and teachers."
Kristmanson says school districts, primarily in the south of the province, have created their own systems for dealing with newcomers — more than 2,000 in the past three years.
'Ensure student success'
Strong says the fact the province has a history of welcoming children from other countries means there are already systems in place to help these children adjust.
"One of the principles that guide the work we do is called universal design for learning. So the idea is that what's absolutely essential to some children is good for all children," Strong said.
She says this system will help children suffering from the trauma of war and displacement as it creates "safe, orderly, predictable learning environments."
Strong says she expects the newcomers to have solid skills, as literacy rates in Syria are traditionally high and there is a high rate of school participation in that country. However, she said there will be gaps in education, as many of the Syrian families have been on the run, or in refugee camps, until now.
In terms of additional English as an additional language staff, Strong says it's too early to tell what will be needed, but she does anticipate a positive experience for everyone involved.
'Our mandate has been, without question, that we are are going to do whatever we can to ensure student success."