Bourne schools ready to welcome children of migrants staying on Joint Base Cape Cod

Heather McCarron
Cape Cod Times

Like their American counterparts, los hijos — the children — among the mostly Venezuelan migrants who arrived on Cape Cod last week normally would have returned to their Venezuelan classrooms this month, embarking on a year of learning that would take them into June.

But when you must flee your patria, your homeland, because of economic or political turmoil, the act of formal learning — la aprendizaje — unfortunately takes a back seat.

Luckily, this is something about which local educators can do something.

 Here's how you can help:Want to make a donation for migrants on Cape Cod military base?

Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou

Bourne Public Schools Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou said Monday that the district's administrative team has been in contact with representatives from Joint Base Cape Cod regarding the migrant children.

"While no final decisions have been made regarding the status of the children, the Bourne Public Schools are ready, willing and able to provide a public school education to these children should the need arise," Quinlan-Zhou said in an email.

More:Bourne enrollment may get boost from School Choice, military students

After they were unexpectedly dropped off on Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday (Sept. 14), the migrants were given the opportunity to move to the base, which is better equipped to house them and help them with the next steps in their immigration process. It is unknown how many children there are among the group.

Since the housing on the base is located within the borders of Bourne, the town's school system provides education to families living there. And there is precedent for schooling displaced school children there, as well.

Educating children of military families

"We educate children of military families each year in our school buildings, and have also taken in refugee students in the past including, as an example, students displaced from Hurricane Katrina," Quinlan-Zhou said. "These students are educated in our school buildings as members of our school community."

The base did at one time host its own school facilities: the Otis Memorial School, which was closed in 2009, and the Stone School, which closed in 2000.

More:Latino civil rights group offers $5K reward to find woman who 'baited' migrants to Vineyard

Quinlan-Zhou said the school system's relationship with Joint Base Cape Cod "is extremely positive, and we are familiar with the process of collaborating with families residing there."

During the 2021-2022 school year, the school system enrolled 111 students from the base. That number was down from 179 students during the 2017-2018 school year.

The superintendent said the school system is prepared to help children whose first language is not English.

Help at hand for non-English speakers

"The district offers English as a second language (ESL) services to any student who may need them," she said. "Any student with a home language other than English is eligible to be assessed to receive ESL support. Therefore, the newcomers would have access to these services should they attend Bourne Public Schools."

The district includes four schools: Bournedale Elementary School for grades Pre-K to 2, Bourne Intermediate School for grades 3 to 5, Bourne Middle School for grades 6 to 8 and Bourne High School for grades 9 to12.

Laden with school supplies and full backpacks, students pour into the school gym from the busses on the first day of school at the Bourne Intermediate School on Aug. 30, 2022.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 8.5% of the students enrolled during the last academic year were learners whose first language is not English, and 4.3% were English language learners.

In Venezuela, the first nine years of education are compulsory, according to — 95% of Venezuelans are literate and more than 92% attend primary school.

Once children complete primary school, they move on to three years of required middle school.

"Around age 14-15 while in ninth grade they must choose between following either humanities or sciences under the nation’s diversified education policy," says. "Two years of non-compulsory secondary school may follow as the diversified education program follows. Upon completion, students receive the title of either Bachiller en Ciencias or Bachiller en Humanidades. Some schools include professional education too, in which case their certificate reads Técnico en Ciencias (Science Technician)."

Contact Heather McCarron at