RELIGION

Older refugee students seek seats at mainstream high schools

  • In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, Patient Inganya, right, and Enrique Veliz, left, do classwork at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pa. The Lancaster community runs an "international school" on its main high school campus to help the waves of new arrivals sponsored by local resettlement agencies learn English and adjust to American schools. But the practice of sending the ones who are over 16 and have no school records to Phoenix, an alternative school across town, has rattled critics who see it as a diploma mill. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)

    In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, Patient Inganya, right, and Enrique Veliz, left, do classwork at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pa. The Lancaster community runs an "international school" on its main high school campus to help the waves of new arrivals sponsored by local resettlement agencies learn English and adjust to American schools. But the practice of sending the ones who are over 16 and have no school records to Phoenix, an alternative school across town, has rattled critics who see it as a diploma mill. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, Shukuru Amanya works with paper letters in an English language class at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pa. Amanya, 18, was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania to parents who had fled Congo. She said she attended school there, in French, through 11th grade. Amanya came to the U.S. last fall with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)

    In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, Shukuru Amanya works with paper letters in an English language class at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pa. Amanya, 18, was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania to parents who had fled Congo. She said she attended school there, in French, through 11th grade. Amanya came to the U.S. last fall with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, Shukuru Amanya works with paper letters in an English language class at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pa. Amanya, 18, was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania to parents who had fled Congo. She said she attended school there, in French, through 11th grade and came to the U.S. last fall with her husband and daughter. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)

    In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, Shukuru Amanya works with paper letters in an English language class at Phoenix Academy in Lancaster, Pa. Amanya, 18, was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania to parents who had fled Congo. She said she attended school there, in French, through 11th grade and came to the U.S. last fall with her husband and daughter. (AP Photo/Michael Rubinkam)  (The Associated Press)

Pennsylvania's Amish country has long welcomed waves of new immigrants, but advocates are now divided over how to educate older students who arrive with little English or formal education.

The Lancaster School District believes the 17- to 21-year-old students will do better in a small alternative high school where they can earn credits and graduate more quickly.

But the American Civil Liberties Union believes the students will learn more in the international program at the main high school across town. Federal courts have so far agreed.

Lancaster Superintendent Damaris Rau says they have a better chance of earning a diploma at the alternative school.

A full trial on the issue is set for this summer unless the two sides forge a settlement.