By Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio | November 29, 2023 | documentedny
At a hearing on Wednesday, city council members pressed the Department of Education for answers on how migrant children will be affected by Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s shelter policies. Elected officials focused in on the 60-day-notice shelter transfer policy and toll it has taken on the students.
“We just know that policies like the 60-day shelter stay limitation does create instability,” Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who represents the 2nd Council District which includes East Village, said. “Many of us are here because we’re here to challenge the mayor’s rules, because we think that it harms children ultimately.”
In October, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city will require migrant families with children to leave their current shelter within 60 days, once they receive notification from the city. The rule applies to migrants staying at respite centers and Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.
At the hearing, which was held by the Immigration Committee and the Education Committee, members of the city’s Department of Education (DOE) testified about how they are managing the administration’s policies, and more broadly spoke about adjustments they have made to respond to the high number of migrant children in schools.
Immigration Committee Chair Shahana Hanif relayed how some shelter transfers forced children from schools in her district to miss school “for weeks on end,” she said. In some instances, children attending schools in Park Slope were recently transferred to a shelter in Jamaica, Queens – a commute of at least a few hours, there and back. “When a child is forced to leave a shelter, their place in the school community is threatened,” she said. Hanif called the administration’s implementation of the 60-day rule “a new low.”
According to Melissa Aviles-Ramos, the chief of staff to the Chancellor of New York City Public Schools, about 34,000 students in temporary housing are currently enrolled in the public school system, and approximately 14,000 of those students have enrolled since July, she said.
“No matter the location of the shelter, our staff is working to identify schools with available seats that are closest to the shelters, prioritizing access to programs for multilingual learners,” Aviles-Ramos said.
Under questioning from Hanif, Aviles-Ramos said that the Department of Education was “made aware” of the introduction of the 60-day rule for families, and began to work with City Hall and other partners to respond operationally.
Flavia Puello-Perdomo, the chief of schools within the Office of Community Supports and Wellness at the DOE, said that as far as the agency knew, only families at the Row Hotel in Midtown had received the 60-day notices, which will begin to go into effect in December.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the situation, Puello-Perdomo said the DOE has begun to look at what schools the students are enrolled in, and has contacted principals and superintendents to inform them that they will have families impacted by these shelter limits. “I think it’s the volume and the numbers of what we are experiencing that is very different and unlike anything that we have done in the past,” she said. “So I think it’s really testing our infrastructures and really pushing us to lean on one another around the coordinations.”
Other topics at the meeting included language access barriers, transportations to schools from far-away shelters like Floyd Bennett Field, and how to address absenteeism. At Floyd Bennett Field, a much-contested site that opened earlier this month housing migrant families in a semi-congregate setting, 195 children living there have been enrolled in NYC public schools since November 18, Puello-Perdomo said. There are about 363 shelters in total across the city and more staff will be hired for increased support at locations that need it.
Councilmember Rita Joseph, the chair of the education committee also asked how the DOE was supporting families staying in facilities through the Hotel Vouchering Program, which requires migrants to move shelters after 28 days if they were placed in participating hotels. “It’s a challenge – I’m not going to say that it isn’t,” Aviles-Ramos said. The team immediately was increasing efforts to reach families in these hotels, officials said, and about 500 students are currently staying in these hotels, Puello-Perdomo added.