The Big Apple is scrambling to get up to speed for the first day of school next week with 500 new migrant kids enrolled for the first time and a possible school bus strike looming.
And yet, New York City School Chancellor David Banks claims it’s just business as usual.
“Everything has been okay,” Banks assured New Yorkers at a press conference Wednesday. “We have room for the students, our principals, our superintendents, outside communities have worked extremely well.”
Just over 19,000 kids in temporary housing are enrolled in the city school system — the overwhelming majority of whom are asylum seekers, according to the Department of Education.
As classes get started on Sept. 7, another 500 have been added to the mix this week — with more arriving weekly.
Banks says the district has 3,400 English as a new language teachers and about 1,700 teachers who are fluent in Spanish, the primary language spoken by the vast majority of the nearly 60,000 migrants overall who are now being housed by the city.
They’re among the more than 107,000 migrants who have been processed in total by the city over that span — 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 make sure that migrant children are enrolled in school.
“We recognize that this specific student population faces additional challenges and that the schools need the additional resources to fully support them,” Banks said.
“Our focus remains undeterred on the education wellbeing, holistic development of every student that steps into the public school, regardless of where they come from, or the language that they speak at home.”
However, educators say they have been left to handle it themselves.
“I mean, there’s a plan from me,” one frustrated principal told The Post. “But not from the DOE.”
City Councilman Eric Dinowitz (D-The Bronx), who sits on the Education Committee, said he worried that there hasn’t been enough coordination between city agencies, including social services.
“I know they [the DOE] struggle a lot to coordinate efforts with other city agencies, although they have been responsive when specific needs have been brought to their attention,” Dinowitz said.
“I hope that their plan going forward isn’t just waiting for local council members to call.
“It’s hard enough for people who have been here and lived here with years to deal with getting enrolled in school and getting services,” he continued.
“It’s going to really be challenging and has been challenging, for migrants. I was in the DOE for almost 14 years, and too often, bureaucrats are more interested in looking like they’re doing the right thing than helping students.”
Meanwhile, the city could face another serious hurdle before the school year even gets off the ground — a potential strike by the union representing school bus drivers.
The Amalgamated Transit Union has been in talks with the city but have yet to reach an agreement — threatening the first driver strike since 2013.
Meanwhile, migrant parents, many of them newly arrived in the city, had to do a fair share of scrambling themselves to prepare their kids for their first classes in the US.
“We didn’t bring anything with us, just the clothes we were wearing,” said Jackie Alvarez, a 28-year-old from Belize who crossed the border with her partner and two children, who are 8 and 4 years old.
“I don’t have school supplies for the kids,” she said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I bought the kids some clothes at the Salvation Army. They don’t have enough clothes or footwear or school supplies. I have some pens and paper in the shelter but not proper school supplies.”
Karen Maldonado, a single mom from Ecuador, said she was only able to get her children, who are 6 and 7 years old, enrolled in school at the Family Welcome Center on 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 my daughters learn English.”