Exclusive: How New York City schools are handling the influx of migrant students

Darla Miles Image
Friday, October 6, 2023
Exclusive: How NYC schools are handling the influx of migrant students
How New York City schools are handling the influx of students amid the migrant crisis. Darla Miles has more.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Eyewitness News got an exclusive look at how the largest school district in the United States is handling the migrant crisis.

Walking into the sixth-grade literacy classroom in M.S. 181, you might not recognize that several of the students are recent migrants.

"We don't stick them all together," said Melissa Lonquich, who teaches English as a New Language. "They're very integrated with everyone else in their school community."

Even with the influx of migrant students, Lonquich is the only language teacher in the entire school. The demand for language learning in New York City Schools is high.

"We actually moved from saying ESL from 'English as a Second Language' to 'English as a New Language' because what we found is that for many of these students, English is one of maybe four or five languages," said Melissa Ramos, chief of staff for Chancellor Banks.

Neighborhoods across the five boroughs are seeing a large influx of students, but the largest is in Queens in Districts 27, 28 and 29.

This marks the second year of "Project Open Arms," which was designed to create a comprehensive support plan for students in families seeking asylum.

"Sometimes, kids don't speak the language. But that's not synonymous with the kids being behind in school. Some of these kids are absolutely brilliant, and they just may struggle with speaking English," said NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks.

One-hundred-fifty languages are spoken in New York City schools, and 655 of students speak Spanish.

"They buddied up the students with other students who speak the same language but who are proficient in English and to show them around school, so it's like an instant friend," said Ramos.

Taking a look inside these classrooms shows that as much as these students are a product of a national crisis, they really are just kids.

"As a whole I would say they're so happy to be here, that they become such great students, and their parents are very into education and appreciative I think, in general, appreciative of the school system, appreciative of being in the country, and it's nice to see that," said Lonquich.

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