Introduction

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A group portrait of elementary school evacuee children in front of their schoolhouse at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California. Courtesy of the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library via the Mountain West Digital Library.

Education was an essential component of life in internment camps, and a concern for parents who saw it as a path for social advancement. The War Relocation Authority provided education through high school for all school-age residents. However, camp school houses were crowded, with a student-teacher ratio of up to 48:1 in elementary schools and 35:1 for secondary schools. This rating was high, particularly when compared to the national average of 28:1. Educational staff rarely exceeded five women and seven men in a basic school system that enrolled 1,774 pupils.

Many internment camps had multiple schools to educate the numerous children detained there. Often entire blocks of barracks were converted for grade school classrooms, but they were ‘prison-esque’ blocks that contained few windows. When temperatures rose and the schoolhouse was filled, the rooms would be sweltering and unbearable. The makeshift schoolhouses were never intended for long-term use. And without adequate funding, school supplies and equipment were always in short supply.