City asked to help refugees

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

Suffolk Public Schools and local healthcare facilities may be opening their doors to victims whose homes and lives were

ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Suffolk, like school systems across the state, was advised by the state Department of Education on Thursday to be prepared to enroll to students displaced from their Gulf State homes.

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School divisions are required to treat these families and students, staying with relatives or friends in Virginia, as though they were homeless, as is defined by the federal McKinney-Vento Act, said Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jo Lynne DeMary. Under the act, displaced students are enrolled immediately, and efforts to obtain birth, immunization, health and scholastic records will be made as soon as it is feasible.

Although Suffolk has received several telephone inquires, there have been no enrollments by hurricane refugees to date, said Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for Suffolk Public Schools. But it’s early yet; Suffolk schools don’t open until Tuesday.

&uot;No definite arrangements have been made,&uot; she said. &uot;But it’s definitely the right ting to do.&uot;

Obici Hospital, like others statewide, has been put on alert that hurricane refugees may seek its services, said Kelli Tatum, a hospital spokeswoman.

&uot;We would certainly be willing to accepts some folks but I imagine they would go to hospitals closer to the (Gulf Coast) area,&uot; she said.

Both Nansemond Pointe Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and Lake Prince Woods have been asked if they would have extra bed space if the need arises.

&uot;We want to help all we can,&uot; said Celia Soper, executive director of Lake Prince Woods. &uot;We can only give them one bed (in the nursing home)…but we will help by sending medical supplies or anything else we can.&uot;

David O’Brien, executive director on Nansemond Pointe, said his facility could handle up to two refugees.

&uot;I think the state is just trying to gauge what we could do if we are called upon,&uot; said O’Brien. &uot;I think it’s proactive by the state of Virginia to collect this data and have something to work with if the need arises.

&uot;There are just so many people impacted. It’s sad to see the federal government has been so slow to act.&uot;