NEW YORK (PIX11) — With less than three weeks until the start of the school year, New York City schools are preparing for an influx of migrant children seeking asylum.
This is part of Mayor Eric Adams’ “Project Open Arms,” which aims to provide educational assistance to asylum-seeking families.
“Our city has been, and will always be, a city of immigrants that welcomes newcomers with open arms,” Adams said.
On Friday morning, two buses full of families, including 15 children, made their way through Port Authority, seeking asylum here in the city. Only PIX11 News was allowed inside the intake center, where the families signed up for services and received donations including backpacks for kids to start their new life.
Thus far, at least 6,500 hundred migrants have sought help from New York City’s shelters. More than 1,000 children, who will likely need translation and mental health services, will be enrolling in the city’s public schools.
Advocates for children said their biggest concern is staffing among schools already stretched thin due to budget cuts.
“Our concern is that there isn’t sufficient staff at each school that are bilingual and that are knowledgeable to be able to help families and to help all the students are coming in,” said Rita Rodriguez-Engberg, director of immigrant students’ rights at Advocates for Children New York.
Schools Chancellor David Banks said the city is asking the Biden administration for help while the influx of asylum seekers continues from Texas and Arizona.
The city is also making sure to fill the gap in Spanish-speaking educators.
“We are looking at bringing teachers from the Dominican Republic to come here to work with us in New York City,” Banks said.
School liaisons have been working to enroll mostly Kinder through Eighth Graders in city schools with a lower enrollment close to their shelter. P.S. 111 in Hell’s Kitchen will welcome 50 students thus far, according to Department of Education Superintendent Kelly McGuire.
“When kids come into the building, we assess their needs and we make sure we meet kids and families where they are at,” McGuire said.
This is Banks’ first opening day as Schools chancellor. He said he is expecting an orderly transition and a smooth first day on Sept. 8.