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Students from San Diego County school district stranded in Afghanistan

People and plane on runway
U.S. airmen guide evacuees aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 24, 2021.
(U.S. Air Force)

At least 24 students from the Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon and 16 parents are stranded in Afghanistan after taking a summer trip abroad.

They are among thousands of individuals waiting to leave the country amid political unrest caused by the U.S. military pullout after 20 years of occupation. The U.S. government is accelerating efforts to rescue Americans as the Taliban takes over the country.

Cajon Valley Supt. David Miyashiro told school district board members via text message Tuesday that he and other Cajon Valley staff met virtually with U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Bonsall) and his staff about the situation.

Miyashiro said that the families are on special visas for U.S. military service and that the Department of Defense considers them allies. He said that the district was able to provide information on the families and that government officials are working to locate the children and their families. He said he was encouraged by the assistance.

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He said the missing students attend different schools in the 28-school district in eastern San Diego County.

Mike Serban, who heads the district’s Family and Children Engagement program, which works with the district’s many refugee families and provides interpreters, was the one who first got word about the students’ plight.

Miyashiro said Serban and others who work with the FACE program as interpreters and liaisons for families in the district heard last week from a family concerned its student would lose a seat in the classroom. Another family reached out with the same fear, then another.

He said that at that point, Serban reached out to Miyashiro and others to let them know there was an issue with many children attending Cajon Valley schools.

Jonathan Wilcox of Issa’s office wrote via email, “Congressman Issa and his staff are working diligently to determine the facts on the ground, any bureaucratic barriers that can be removed, and the best ways to help those stranded leave Afghanistan and return home safely. We won’t stop until we have answers and action.”

Cajon Valley School Board President Tamara Otero said the families had tickets to fly out of Afghanistan, “but unfortunately they were not able to get to the airport.”

“The biggest concern is that the Taliban closed the airport,” Otero said. “We are so worried about our students that are stuck there. We’ll do the best we can to get them out.”

Cajon Valley School Board member Jo Alegria said the students were in Afghanistan on summer vacation with their families. She said families of the students who are abroad reached out to the district to ask that it hold their places in their classrooms.

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Alegria said the students and families were planning on being home for the school year that began Aug. 17 but were not able to get on their scheduled flights back to the U.S. She said the district was helping get proper documentation for the students to expedite their return home.

Pearlman writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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