Similar to several other international schools in our region, FIS has a small number of Ukrainian families among our highly diverse community. During our recent February break, one of our FIS families was caught in Ukraine when the Russian invasion began. They immediately headed for the border, but knowing the life-threatening risks that lay ahead, brought with them four additional Ukrainian children from friends and relatives.
When I spoke with the FIS father whose family is now caring for these four children, it was clear that our school needed to step-up and play a supportive role. Within days of their arrival to Germany, our school counselors met with these children to see how we could welcome them into our learning community. Our school is already at capacity in most grade levels, but there was never a question of exceeding these limits under the circumstances.
Although FIS has also recently welcomed additional students from other international schools impacted by the crisis, these four children were previously enrolled in local Ukrainian schools. Our primary goal in welcoming them to FIS was to offer an alternative to sitting idle, wondering and worrying about what was happening to their loved ones and country. Of course, we do not expect to remove that anxiety completely, but providing them a caring environment where they can be engaged intellectually, socially, physically, and emotionally during the school day is paramount.
We do not know how long these students will be enrolled in our school community as their ultimate goal – as is ours – is to ensure they are able to return to their homes and families as soon as safely possible. In the meantime, what we do know is that their presence among our student body sends a powerful message to our students, parents, faculty and staff – that we all have a role to play in supporting one another and living up to our school’s mission of being “socially responsible and internationally-minded citizens.”
We have been informed to expect further Ukrainian students to arrive in the coming weeks. Is our enrollment capacity limited? Yes. But our resolve to do whatever we can during this historic period of upheaval is only growing stronger.
From February 2022
On Monday, Frankfurt International School (FIS) will welcome four Ukrainian students into our school community. They have fled the violence of their country and will be living within our region with relatives. We expect more to follow in the coming weeks and are making preparations to provide these students with the tuition, supplies, and support needed to integrate into our learning community. Our school and student groups are also networking with local agencies to provide additional humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Tomorrow our students will lead our FIS community, in conjunction with other German schools, in a moment of silence to recognize the unfolding tragedy taking place in Ukraine. One student’s words will sum up our sentiment: “We are all citizens of the world. Therefore, an attack upon world peace is an attack upon our shared home.”
Paul is the Head of School for Frankfurt International School.