Schools Struggle To Accommodate Growing Numbers Of Migrant Kids

( — Children in the US are entitled to education funded by American taxpayers, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Many public schools are seeing higher numbers of new enrollments than they’ve had in years. While for some schools, this may feel like a relief after the recent popularity of homeschooling and other alternative school options has driven down enrollment, many schools are finding their resources strained. There is a teacher shortage generally, but the demand specifically for multi-lingual teachers is even more pressing in this environment. There are some schools that are finding it challenging to find even the physical space to accommodate the high numbers of students they are getting. Classrooms are crowded, and school buses are struggling to expand their routes.

Chicago Public Schools have added about 1,000 new ESL (English as a Second Language) students, with another 1,200 expected to enroll over the summer. New York City doesn’t track that information but does collect data on the number of students living in temporary housing, which is sometimes used as a way to extrapolate whether students are recent immigrants. NYC Public Schools have enrolled 11,000 new students living in temporary housing, some of whom will be from migrant or asylum-seeking families. More than 900 foreign-born students have recently enrolled in the Boston Public School system. D.C. has a rough estimate of about 400 migrant students new to its public schools.

According to Homeland Security data, 124,000 people crossed America’s borders without visas in the last two months alone. Education officials have expressed their difficulties in enforcing vaccination requirements for public schooling. Many schools were already struggling with the learning disruptions caused by the pandemic and the overall teacher shortage. Chicago has been cutting bilingual teachers for at least five years but now finds itself in dire need of more.

There is also concern that the new students will need social services and mental health support. Boston has hired 18 new in-school social workers dedicated to helping migrant children, in addition to the 200 social workers they already had. Melissa Aviles-Ramos assures people worried that all the resources being allocated specifically for immigrant children will not result in “taking from one student to another.”

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