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Saturday, October 15, 2022

Status Update on NYC Public Schools: Classes Become Too Large, Certified Teachers Speaking Spanish Are Not Available


PS 33 Chelsea Prep in Manhattan has seen an influx of migrant kids who are easily identified by green ID tags hanging from their necks.
[photo: Kevin C. Downs]

The headline says it all. This is the effect the migrants are having on New York City public schools.

Ok, I have to ask: just who is weaponizing the "sanctuary city, home of the migrants"? Is it the Governor of Texas or Florida? Or Mayor Adams?

I am an advocate for justice and respect. I, like many Americans, want peace, a good life, and a government by the people for the people. But how can we provide for anybody, if all services and providers come to a halt because there are too many who need them?

New Yorkers hear every day in the news that the City welcomes families via bus, airplane or other, cars, trains. Yet the NYC Department of Education, under the control of Mayor Adams, is not - and cannot - handle the number of kids placed into classrooms where the teachers do not speak Spanish. Remember, more than a thousand teachers and educators were fired in 2021-2022 because they did not get vaccinated. Are all the kids and parents now coming in and out of the public schools in all the boroughs, vaccinated? Are the administrators, tutors, and paraprofessionals all vaccinated within the last 6 months so that they are protected from getting/infecting others with COVID? Does the vaccine even work to protect people from getting ill? I don't think so. Are the teachers who are being suddenly given classrooms of kids all certified to teach? I have heard not.

And, as federal immigration rules dictate, migrants cannot receive permission to work in the US until 6 months after they apply for asylum, will the newly arrive families be living on taxpayer funds for the next 6 months, while kids already in the City's public schools try to stay on grade-level with too many non-English speaking kids, and uncertified teachers?

I'm just asking.

Betsy Combier, Editor

‘It’s scary for me’: Struggle of migrant kids in NYC schools with few Spanish speakers

Migrant children who don’t speak any English are “scared” and struggling to cope after being placed at a New York City school where there’s a lack of bilingual teachers, The Post has learned.

City Hall and the Department of Education have come under fire after The Post revealed some migrant kids are sitting in classrooms where instruction in Spanish is limited because there aren’t enough teachers certified in the language.

“They’re only in English. I don’t understand it. It’s hard and scary for me,” Fernanda, a first-grader at PS 33 Chelsea Prep in Manhattan, told The Post this week.

“I don’t talk to not one friend, I stay quiet, I don’t how they talk, English.”

Fernanda’s mother, Lida Téllez, said communicating with the school has been “difficult and complicated” because there are only a few teachers who speak Spanish.

“I haven’t had the chance to figure out what’s going on or talk to anyone at the school because her professor doesn’t speak Spanish and my daughter doesn’t understand what’s happening,” the 37-year-old mom explained.

“There is one lady at the school that we go to for help sometimes but she’s just one person and can’t help us all the time,” she continued. “It’s frustrating but we can’t really complain.”

Despite the recent influx of migrant kids being assigned to the school by the DOE, PS 33 initially had just one certified bilingual teacher and was scrambling to reassign teachers who can speak at least a little Spanish, sources said.

Migrant mom Diana Garcia said her 5-year-old daughter was placed in one of the few classes where the teacher can switch between English and Spanish.

“It’s difficult for her. She says she doesn’t understand a lot of things throughout her day,” Garcia, 20, said of her daughter.

“We didn’t get to choose, but luckily for her grade, there’s a Spanish-speaking teacher,” she added. “Not everyone has bilingual classes, very few, some teachers speak just a little Spanish.”

Jesus G’s 5-year-old son is also in a bilingual class.

“It is hard for him to not understand anything, but he’ll pick it up,” he told The Post. “He has other Spanish-speaking kids in there with him.”

Schools Chancellor David Banks admitted Thursday that the lack of bilingual teachers for migrant students across the city was a “real problem” that hadn’t yet been resolved.

“We’re still working on it,” Banks told reporters after a keynote speech at the Association for a Better New York.

“We don’t have enough to spread them around to meet the need of what’s actually going on right now. We’ve got thousands of students who come in, most of whom don’t speak any English.”

He added: “Bilingual teachers have always been a shortage area for us anyway. So it’s not like we wave a magic wand, and we got all the answers. We’re trying to figure it out. This is a real problem, happening in real time.”

Currently, the DOE decides where migrant kids can attend school based on a range of factors, including the proximity to the shelter where their family has been placed and availability of schools.

“We have some challenges here in terms of where the kids are placed because so much of it is being driven by where they are being placed in their temporary housing,” Banks said.

“So if you get temporary housing somewhere in Chelsea, we don’t want to send you to school in Queens.

“These are young kids who don’t even know New York City. And so we’re kind of limited in terms of where we can place them in schools. But we’re working to ensure that the schools have what they need.”

It comes after City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams demanded Wednesday that the DOE “get a handle” on the placement of thousands of asylum-seeking kids in city schools.

“We have to ensure that the children coming into the schools have Spanish-speaking teachers or Spanish-speaking individuals in those schools,” she said of the city’s lack of preparedness to handle the migrant influx.

The predicament is yet another example of how the ongoing influx of migrants — now nearly 19,000 — is straining the city’s ability to provide them with shelter and an education.

PS 33 initially had just one certified bilingual teacher and was scrambling to reassign teachers who can speak at least a little Spanish, sources said.
kevin c downs

Mayor Eric Adams revealed last week that 5,500 migrants kids have been enrolled in the city’s public schools so far.

Meanwhile, some non-migrant parents have flagged concerns that their own children will suffer and be held back if teaching manpower continues to be stretched too thin because there aren’t enough Spanish-speaking teachers.

District 2 Superintendent Kelly McGuire, who oversees PS 33, tried to allay concerns at a meeting earlier this week, telling parents that the school was working to hire bilingual substitute teachers amid the recent migrant influx.

“What I‘ve heard is that teachers are afraid of the kids holding back the courses, but that’s not our fault,” said Téllez, the mom of first-grader Fernanda.

Still, aside from the language barrier, Téllez said PS 33 had helped them “a lot with clothes and food.”

“Other than the communication, everything has been good,” she said.

“I was nervous about sending her to school without papers because I was sure they wouldn’t let her in, but it’s a huge blessing that they did. I was also worried about sending her to school without having any clothing, since we got to this country with nothing.

She added: “It’s scary, not knowing anyone or the language, but at least my daughter is in school. And most importantly my daughter is happy going to school. And little by little, she’ll learn English.” 

Garcia, the other migrant mom, said she too had received help since her daughter was placed at PS 33.

“I have gotten help from one of the Spanish-speaking teacher, a gentleman who has helped us figure out housing, communication with the school, and even help with getting water,” she said.