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California Schools Open Doors to Young Evacuees of Katrina

October 08, 2005|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

California schools have enrolled 745 students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, with Orange County taking in the greatest number of schoolchildren in the state, figures released Friday by the state Department of Education show.

"There's no question -- it has been impressive the way California schools have opened their arms to these kids," said Rick Miller, spokesman for the department. "There have been zero instances of any child being turned away, or even any bureaucratic hurdles being put in the way. We've clearly put children's education first and foremost and worried about bureaucracy second, and we're very proud of that."

Hurricane Katrina displaced more than 300,000 schoolchildren, most of them pouring into schools in other parts of Louisiana, Texas and other nearby states.

Students also were scattered across the nation, with 129 landing in Orange County -- more than any other county in California.

County Supt. Bill Habermehl said he has heard no reports of schools having difficulty accommodating the evacuees. He suspects that many of the children moved in with friends and family who live in the county.

"It's not because we have low-cost housing, I'm sure," he said. "We're pleased to be able to accommodate them, and I'm sure they'll fit in."

Orange County officials attribute the region's popularity partly to local Vietnamese residents who helped their Louisiana compatriots. The Westminster School District, for instance, enrolled 17 evacuees, 11 of whom are Vietnamese, said Trish Montgomery, a district spokeswoman.

The number of students enrolled in California schools is growing, Miller said. As of Friday, he said, the Department of Education had received reports that 37 students had enrolled in Los Angeles County, 35 in San Bernardino County and 25 in Riverside County.

The federal government has pledged to pay school districts $7,500 per student. In the meantime, Miller said, school officials are working with counterparts in the gulf states to accomplish a tangle of tasks, including finding immunization records, and deciding whether high school seniors must take California's graduation exam and can receive diplomas from their home states.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

New students

California school districts have registered 745 students who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina as of Friday. Orange County schools registered the highest number: 129.

Katrina-displaced students registered in California

Preschool - 12th grade, by county

Orange : 129

Sacramento : 93

Contra Costa: 73

San Joaquin: 67

Alameda: 64

Kings: 41

Los Angeles: 37

San Bernardino: 35

San Diego: 32

Riverside: 25

All other counties: 149

Total : 745

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Source: California Department of Education.

Graphics reporting by Seema Mehta

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