Mayor Eric Adams’ Administration launched a new Project Open Arms on Friday, August 19th. The program will see the involvement of the Department of Education (DOE), the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), and the Department of Social Services (DSS). It is being implemented as a plan to offer support to migrant families and their children who are arriving in New York City. The program will cater to the migrants by providing access to education, mental health support, and language-based assistance at school. This will be an interagency endeavor with each aforementioned department working with other agencies connected to it. This will include Community Based Organizations, which are useful in several instances. The plan is designed to cater to a fluctuating number of about 1,000 children with the knowledge that more children may have to be admitted into the system. This will all be done with an eye cast towards the opening of schools on September 8th.
“Our city has been, and will always be, a city of immigrants that welcomes newcomers with open arms,” said Mayor Adams. “‘Project Open Arms ensures we are well-prepared to assist asylum-seekers as the school year begins and that we are offering wraparound services to students and families. With strong collaboration with our partners, both in and out of government, this plan highlights how we can lead with compassion and ‘Get Stuff Done’ for those who need it most.”
The Department of Education will be setting up pop-up offices close to shelters to allow those who live there easy access to enrollment facilities. These facilities will assist parents with the enrollment process. In the case that parents need further assistance, the staffers in the pop-up offices can escort them to Family Welcome Centers. The staff members of these centers are to identify the most convenient schools, provide the necessary school supplies such as backpacks and assist families who need help from the Health Department and Mental Health clinics. A lot of the migrant families and children do not speak English as a first language, so they will be provided with lessons in English as a second language. While it was noted as a challenge there would also be an initiative to have people who speak the same languages as the migrants, teach them English and translate it into the languages they understand. The program will provide extracurricular activities for both the children and their parents. Children from kindergarten to the 8th grade will be provided with buses. Parents will be provided with MetroCards to use when taking their children to school.
“Our public schools are prepared to welcome families seeking asylum with open arms,” said DOE Chancellor Banks. “Our city has always stood with those in need of refuge and shelter, and this administration will continue that proud legacy. We are working alongside our agency partners to set students up for success by addressing their academic, emotional, and social needs, and ensuring there is no disruption to their education. Our schools are ready and excited to welcome our newest New Yorkers to class on September 8th.”
Since the enrollment rate has been declining in the city there are schools with several open spaces that may be utilized by the children in need. “As we’re looking at where we’re placing these students, we’re placing them primarily in schools that have the space for them. We’re not going to put them in the schools that are a little bit overcrowded,” Banks said. Banks indicated that his department would provide as many resources as it could but if the need arose, the city would request extra financial support from the federal government.
The program is going to mainly focus on six school districts in every borough except Staten Island. According to reports most new students have been concentrated in Districts 2 and 3 of Manhattan, Districts 24 and 30 in Queens, District 14 in Brooklyn, and District 10 in the Bronx.