ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — If Rochester does see an influx of Ukrainian refugee families, there’s a good chance many of the children will end up at Rochester International Academy, or RIA.

The school is based within the Rochester City School District (RCSD) and is designed to educate English-language learning students from war-torn countries.

As the district prepares for those students, there’s a debate over a recent change at RIA.

For years, the school had been K-12, which allowed many families to send all of their children to one school. Last school year, however, RCSD pulled all of the younger students and sent them to their home elementary school making RIA a 7-12 school — a move that upset some of the members of RIA’s advisory board.

“Students were moved to other schools that really don’t have the same resources, the staff that is trained in multiple cultures and languages,” said Ed Donnelly, a RIA advisory board member.

He adds many parents already struggling with the transition to a new country now have to navigate different schools.

This is why he, along with Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services, are asking RCSD return RIA to a K-12 school.

“When you consider all of the trauma, having people near you who have been through something with you, provides some safety factors as well,” said Carla Stough-Huffman, a RIA advisory board member.

In response to this request, RCSD sent the following statement to News 8:

The Rochester International Academy (RIA) has been hailed as a community gem where newcomer students are welcomed, nurtured, and educated. While as a transitional program for newcomer students RIA has had great success, the State Education Department has indicated the importance of ensuring that all our elementary students have the opportunity to become adjusted and receive instruction at their home schools throughout the District. That transition took place starting last school year (2020 – 2021) thereby making RIA a 7-12 grade program.  The District realizes the importance of the social-emotional needs of our newcomer students throughout the District, and the necessity for inclusive and accepting environments.  We look to have all of our schools to replicate RIAs support to K-6th grade students coming from other countries. 

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.