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Schools prep for refugee arrival

How Davis-Monthan could help with language barrier
Posted at 7:43 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 22:43:00-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Afghan and Haitian refugees are headed for Tucson, bringing with them challenges for local school districts. KGUN9 has more on how districts are preparing--and how there’s a chance the Air Force can help.

When Afghans evacuated to the U.S., many brought large families with them---including plenty of school age children.

In the Tucson area, TUSD, the Tucson Unified School District and the Amphi district have proud histories of welcoming refugees. TUSD says its’ students speak 105 languages. Sometimes the district uses services that translate over a phone.

TUSD says it’s looking for translators who can speak Dari or Pashto, the main Afghan languages.

Refugee coordinator Doctor Selena Mahoney remembers the case of one boy who arrived before the groups coming now. He learned when students first arrive, the main language is the language of welcome from the school principal, to the teacher, to individual classmates.

“That teacher welcomed him warmly and assigned a buddy to him for the day so he had a buddy to go with him throughout the whole day and help him go to his new classes they had similar schedules.”

Tucson has an unusual resource in uniform that may be able to help. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is the only place in the Air Force that is home to EC-130M aircraft. They look like cargo planes but they are packed with electronics that let their crews listen to and disrupt enemy communications. That mission means EC-130s may carry crew members who speak the Afghan languages.

A Davis-Monthan spokesperson says the air crews are often away on deployment but if time allows they may be able to use their language skills to help Afghans settling in Tucson.