By Esmé E. Deprez ---- The Bloomberg Report
The record flood of Central American children crossing the U.S. border is stretching funds and setting off improvisation at public schools.
While politicians spend the summer fighting over how to turn back the tide, school leaders across the U.S. are struggling to absorb a new student population the size of Newark, New Jersey’s. More than 40,000 children, many of them fresh from violent, harrowing journeys, have been released since October to stateside relatives as courts process their cases.
“These kids were homesick and heartbroken,” said Robin Hamby, a family specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in suburban Washington, which began feeling the surge almost as soon as it began three years ago.
Her Virginia district employs more teachers who work with non-English speakers than ever, and wrote a curriculum to reunite children and parents, many of whom haven’t seen one another in years. Houston is increasing training and translation. Los Angeles nurses are working overtime to screen for emotional trauma created on the journey north.
U.S. authorities have apprehended more than 52,000 lone minors this fiscal year, part of a wave mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. This week, President Barack Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to cope with the deluge that’s overwhelmed processing centers, shelters where some children stay, courts and social-service agencies.