BUFFALO, N.Y. — When migrants began arriving from New York City to Erie County in early June, the county said it was assured there would be no school-age children.
"Once we found out that that was not the case, they were in fact showing up on our door, we wanted to make sure that there was a cohesive plan for them to begin school," Deputy County Executive Lisa Chimera said.
Chimera, a retired teacher, took the lead on developing that plan over roughly the last month. She said currently the Maryvale School District has 76 of those students and Sweet Home has 48.
"They were remarkable," she said. "They pulled together their teams from their school districts. They worked with Jericho Road. They made sure that registration was easy. We had interpreters at each site."
County and school officials said enrollment was the initial priority as the county, districts, resettlement agencies and Erie 1 BOCES met weekly by conference call and continue to do so. BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Michael Capuana said it involved gathering core census data, reviewing the level of formalized education the children had and their English language needs.
"We're more in a coordination role at this point, kind of connecting as well and the other department I would mention as well is the State Education Department, obviously, as we serve as a state education representative in the region here," Capuana said.
He said with school in session, the districts will be assessing unanticipated costs, potential new staff and resources it needs and may appeal to State Ed for additional funding. The county said it's taken on no additional expenses.
"We're fortunate both in the case both with Sweet Home and Maryvale that they are well-situated to support English language learners,” Capuana said. “They've had students across their school community, granted this is a new group of students with some specific English language needs.”
Jericho Road Community Health Center and the county health department ensured all students had the necessary vaccinations prior to starting school.
"The superintendents have indicated that they are following the guidelines that New York state has put in place for school-age children so there are no concerns from our superintendents," Chimera said.
She and Capuana said another priority has been making sure the necessary social and emotional supports are available for children who have arrived to the region under difficult circumstances. The county said the students represent a diverse group of grade levels K-12.
It said DocGo, the NYC contractor coordinating relocation services, did offer to provide transportation but the districts are handling bussing right now. Leaders are also cognizant students may be moving throughout the school year but will handle that as it comes.
There are federal regulations that ensure children without permanent residences have flexibility to remain in a district so they have the best opportunity to succeed.