NYC unveils school plan for asylum seekers and their children bused in from Texas

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Friday, August 19, 2022
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More buses are arriving Friday at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan with migrants from Texas on board. Crystal Cranmore has the details.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City officials unveiled their plan to help children of asylum seekers have a shot at a good education.

Two buses from Texas with 78 asylum seekers, including 15 children, the youngest two months old, arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal Friday morning

Included in the newly arrived group was a pregnant woman, one week from her due date, who needed urgent medical care and was taken to the hospital.

Scenes like this have been happening for several weeks now, amid growing concern about how the city will meet the long-term needs of those arriving.

On Friday morning, city officials unveiled their plan for making sure the children of the asylum seekers will able to start school in a few weeks.

"Project Open Arms" will support families seeking asylum and ensure children are provided a full range of services to start their public education on Sept. 8, the first day of school.

"'Project Open Arms' ensures we are well-prepared to assist asylum-seekers as the school year begins and that we are offering wraparound services to students and families," said Mayor Eric Adams in a statement. "With strong collaboration with our partners, both in and out of government, this plan highlights how we can lead with compassion and 'Get Stuff Done' for those who need it most."

Under the plan, the city is prioritizing strong interagency collaboration to provide families with a broad range of resources.

The Department of Education has been working in close coordination with its agency partners, including MOIA and DSS, to connect families with the resources they need in preparation for the start of the school year, the mayor's office said.

The city estimates at least 1,000 children of asylum seekers will enroll this fall and is wrapping its arms around the logistical challenge of placing them in the city's public schools.

They are working with social services agencies and local nonprofits to help the families - many of whom are staying in the city's shelter system - enroll their children and connect them to English learning and social support programs.

Schools Chancellor David Banks said matching students with schools is "a very fluid situation."

"We are moving the resources that need to be moved to ensure that the students in the schools are getting what they need," Banks said.

A big need is bilingual teachers.

"We are thinking outside the box and looking at ways to increase the population of bilingual teachers, one of the things we are doing right now, we are in deep communication with the government of the Dominican Republic," Banks said. "We are looking at bringing teachers from the DR who will come here to work with us here in NYC."

More than 2,800 undocumented immigrants have arrived from Texas and Arizona since the beginning of the summer.

On Wednesday alone, about 40 children were on board the four buses, highlighting the challenge the city is facing as the new school year approaches.

The asylum seekers are all different ages, coming from different school grades, with different educational backgrounds from different countries. Almost all speak little English.

Many of the families are ending up being housed in city shelters located in Manhattan's School District 2. From there, they will be placed in schools inside that district.

Other asylum seekers are in schools districts 3, 10, 14, 24 and 30.

Families can enroll in Manhattan's Family Welcome Center. Bilingual staff is on site, and that the city is handing out backpacks.

Advocates say the children will need a lot of support.

The Department of Education says it will seek federal funding, but the schools will get the resources they need either way.

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