BY: MAXWELL SCHUSS
As New York City begins the school year, administrators are scrambling to find space, funding, and bilingual teachers for more than 100,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in the city since last spring.
Every week thousands of migrant families with children pour into the city and as of last year, NYC schools have absorbed close to 19,000 migrant students. But the availability of seats is not as pressing an issue as the number of bilingual teachers. “We have plenty of seats to absorb all of our newest neighbors,” says Melissa Aviles-Ramos, Chief of Staff of the Chancellor’s Office.
However, the looming issue facing New York City public schools is the need for more bilingual staff. Currently, the NYC Department of Education has over 1,700 certified bilingual teachers and 3,400 English as a new language license teachers.
Project Open Arms was launched by the DOE as a comprehensive plan in order to support the influx of asylum seekers. “To ensure that the transition of our English language Learners is smooth, Project Open Arms has been absolutely instrumental in the success that we have had to date,” says New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks. “To bridge any communication gaps, we provide translation services to assist our families and caregivers.” Project Open Arms requires every school to have at least one Language Access Coordinator who is trained in translation and interpretation services for immigrant families, as well as Field Language Access Coordinators to assist in these services. Language support is a key piece of Project Open Arms, with the goal to ensure every family has access during their enrollment process. With an average of more than 10,000 people a month entering the system, the need for more teachers is immediate.
According to Banks, the city has committed an additional $110,000,000 to address the immediate requirements for all of our schools. He concluded his speech with a message to all parents, caregivers, and students. “The New York City public schools are here for you regardless of where your journey begins. We’re committed to ensuring progress with strength knowledge love and unwavering support,” says Banks.