The Big Apple braces for the first day of school next week as 500 new migrant children are enrolled for the first time and a possible school bus strike looms.
And yet David Banks, Chancellor of the New York School, maintains that everything is just business as usual.
“Everything was fine,” Banks assured the New Yorkers at a news conference on Wednesday. “We have room for the students, our principals, our superintendents and outside communities have done a very good job.”
Just over 19,000 children in transitional accommodation are enrolled in the city school system – the vast majority of whom are asylum seekers, according to the Department of Education.
With classes starting on September 7th, another 500 have been added to the mix this week – with more being added weekly.
According to Banks, the district has 3,400 teachers of ESL and about 1,700 teachers who are fluent in Spanish, the main language spoken by the vast majority of the nearly 60,000 total migrants now housed in the city.
They are among more than 107,000 migrants accepted by the city in total during that period — including about 2,900 last week alone, officials said.
This week, state officials warned Empire State school districts that they have no choice but to ensure migrant children are enrolled in schools.
“We recognize that this particular group of students faces additional challenges and that schools need additional resources to fully support them,” Banks said.
“Our focus remains undeterred on the educational prosperity and holistic development of every student who attends public school, regardless of where they come from or what language they speak at home.”
However, educators say they have to deal with it themselves.
“I mean, I have a plan,” a frustrated principal told The Post. “But not from the DOE.”
Councilman Eric Dinowitz (D-The Bronx), who sits on the education committee, said he was concerned that there hadn’t been enough coordination between city agencies, including social services.
“I know you [the DOE] They have a hard time coordinating their efforts with other city agencies, although they have responded when special needs have been brought to their attention,” Dinowitz said.
“I hope her plan for the future isn’t just waiting for ward councilors to call.
“For people who have been living here for years, it’s hard enough to deal with enrolling in school and using services,” he continued.
“It’s going to be a real challenge for the migrants, and it has been. I was at the DOE for almost 14 years and too often bureaucrats are more interested in giving the impression that they are doing the right thing than helping the students.”
Meanwhile, the city could face another serious hurdle before the start of the school year — a possible strike by the union representing school bus drivers.
The Amalgamated Transit Union is in talks with the city but has yet to come to an agreement and is threatening the first drivers’ strike since 2013.
Meanwhile, immigrant parents, many of whom had just arrived in the city, had to do something to prepare their children for their first school days in the United States.
“We didn’t bring anything, just the clothes we were wearing,” said Jackie Alvarez, a 28-year-old from Belize who was crossing the border with her partner and two children, ages 8 and 4.
“I don’t have any school supplies for the kids,” she said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I bought the children clothes from the Salvation Army. They don’t have enough clothes, shoes or school supplies. I have some pens and paper at the shelter but no real school supplies.”
Karen Maldonado, a single mother from Ecuador, said she wasn’t able to register her children, ages 6 and 7, for school at the Family Welcome Center until Friday.
“I don’t know if the teachers at the school can speak Spanish,” she said. “I hope so, because my daughters want to learn English. We fled our country to come to America for a better future. So it is important that my daughters learn English.”