California school district says 27 students remain in Afghanistan

U.S. and World

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – A Northern California school district said 27 of its students are stuck in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

“This is really a complicated situation,” said San Juan Unified’s deputy superintendent, Melissa Bassanelli.

Bassanelli estimated there are about 1,400 students of Afghan origin within the district. She said it’s normal for some of the students to go visit their home country every summer.

At one point, Bassanelli realized there were 144 students of Afghan origin who were enrolled in school but weren’t attending classes. As things continued to worsen in Afghanistan, she noticed a group of students had yet to come back.

“Over the weekend, we did discover we had three families return, which included five students, so we’re down to 27 students who are a part of 19 families,” she said.

The district is holding the seats for the students in hopes of their safe return. The district said it will analyze on a case-by-case basis how each student can catch up, depending on when the student comes back.

“We will continue to advocate for our community,” Bassanelli said. “We celebrate our diverse community and we stand with our Afghan families and advocate for their support.”

The district said it has a team offering the Afghan community social or emotional support, along with food and rent help for refugees.

Another school district in the Sacramento area as well as one in San Diego say they’re in contact with students of their own stuck in Afghanistan.

Many of the families arrived in the U.S. years ago after obtaining special immigrant visas granted to Afghans who had worked for the U.S. government or U.S. military over the past two decades.

Some of the families told school district officials that they had made attempts to get on planes at the airport in Kabul but were unable to get through Taliban checkpoints or through the throngs of Afghans surrounding the airport over the past two weeks. The U.S. ended its evacuation efforts and withdrew its forces on Monday.

The Department of Defense declined an interview and referred to what President Joe Biden said this week regarding those left behind: “There is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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