City announces multi-agency plan to support education needs of asylum-seekers

migrants adams
Mayor Eric Adams greets a family of migrants as they arrive from the Texas Border on Aug. 7, 2022.
Photo by Dean Moses

The Adams Administration has created a comprehensive support plan to support newly arrived asylum-seeking families with the resources needed to help with the educational needs of these families, officials announced Friday morning.

Named “Project Open Arms,” the plan aims to bring together several of the city agencies to provide wraparound services to help the incoming public school students with their academic, social-emotional, and language-based support. These agencies include the Department of Education (DOE), the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS), the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. 

“Our city has been, and will always be, a city of immigrants that welcomes newcomers with open arms,” said Mayor Adams in a statement (hizzoner was not present at the Aug. 19 announcement). “’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 collaborations 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.”

“Project Open Arms” will see the DOE’s Student in Temporary Housing Office’s regional managers hosting pop-up Family Welcome Centers at shelters and providing enrollment staff who will find nearby schools for the children to be enrolled while also giving them backpacks and school supplies. 

The DOE will be working with its superintendents to make sure translation services are available to these new families. Students will be given cultural and linguistically responsive academic and extracurricular resources. The students will also be provided with socio-emotional support and evaluation, while also having their socio-emotional needs evaluated by DESSA. 

It is said most of the asylum-seeking families are located in School Districts 2 and 3 in Manhattan, 10 in the Bronx, 14 in Brooklyn, and 24 and 30 in Queens, and about 1,000 children are expected to go through this enrollment process in all grades, including 3- and 4-year-olds. 

DOE Press Secretary Nathaniel Styer pointed out that following today’s conference, anything can happen as more asylum-seekers come from the Southern Border.

“I can say that’s going continue to change,” Styer says. “That’s a very fluid situation. The numbers that were true last week are very different this week and that continues to change.”

First Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg said it is unknown how many more asylum-seeking families are expected to arrive in the coming weeks or months, or when they will stop arriving. But that would not mean the DOE would be a cap on how many new students it will accept.

“We’re going to find seats for every single newcomer to the city,” said Weisberg. “This is one of the advantages of being a very big system, very big city. We will find seats and we will find good quality seats for every single newcomer. Waves of immigration are the lifeblood of the city, and so that includes the school system. We’ve dealt with that before and we are ready.”