LATHAM – The school-aged children of migrants housed at the Sure Stay motel on Wolf Road will be attending North Colonie Schools this fall, and Superintendent Kathleen Skeals met with reporters outside the district’s administration offices on Friday, Aug. 11, to outline on how the district will handle the new students.
“The district is taking proactive measures to support the enrollment process for approximately 40 school-aged children whose families are seeking asylum and have recently been placed within our district borders,” she said.
According to Skeals, the district reached out to New York City officials after conferring with officials from the Mohonasen school district in Rotterdam, where another hotel is housing a large number of migrant children.
“We have benefited greatly because Mohonasen was out in front of this earlier and they probably had information a few weeks earlier,” she said. “They were able to give us contacts, and we reached out to the Engagement Officer from the New York City Mayor’s office, and within 48 hours, she was able to give me a list with all the students, not by name, but by age and language spoken.”
The district will assist the families with its standard registration process, but that process will have to be adapted to the needs of the migrant families by adding more translators. Skeals said that in addition to Spanish, the families speak Turkish, Ukrainian, and Russian.
North Colonie already has a team that includes translators, social workers, school nurses, and administrators who have the expertise and experience to assist families and screen children so appropriate educational placements can be made and will deploy it to the Sure Stay Hotel next week.
“Given that we have so many students in one place, it really makes sense to go there to get them ready for September,” Skeals said.
DocGo, the contractor coordinating services for the families, has case workers at the hotel that have begun the process of organizing meetings between district staff and the migrant families.
“We have actually had one family come here already, but we are going out to meet them to provide assistance,” Skeals said.
English is not the first language for most of the migrants, but she said that it is much easier for a larger district, such as North Colonie, to handle this type of task as compared to a smaller district like Mohonasen because the district already has students where English is a second language (ESL).
“We have ESL students here already, so this is not new,” she said.
The students will be assessed and placed within regular classrooms, which will help the new students with socialization as well as academics.
“Our focus remains on delivering a high-quality education to every student, including those seeking asylum, and we are committed to supporting their educational journey,” Skeals said. “At North Colonie, we recognize the inherent value of each student’s unique gifts. Our commitment to fostering a learning community that values diversity and embraces individual potential extends to all children as they embark on their educational path.”
The district is not receiving additional funding for the new students at this time, but Skeals said that they have been expanding ESL services in recent years to an increase in need. She said that the district will be working through Capital Region Boces, which is a liaison with the state, for additional funding options as the situation evolves.
The total number of migrants at the Sure Stay increased during July after the initial 24 arrived on Memorial Day weekend in June. The original 24 were all single men, according to Colonie Police Deputy Chief Robert Winn, but after that, buses with families began arriving.
On July 20, a bus with 32 children arrived and on July 24, two more buses brought 23 more.
The total number of migrants, of all ages, that arrived on Wolf Road is up to 155.
According to Winn, summonses were issued for Colonie Town Court on June 30 for a representative of the Hotel to appear on July 6 for the original 24. The hotel complied with the request for records for those migrants and was found to not be in compliance with Colonie’s local law limiting hotel stays to 28 days. The case is still pending in Colonie Town Court.
Police returned to the hotel after they were notified of the new buses and were turned away when they asked to see the register. Police returned with a search warrant for the registration records on July 25 for the new bus loads.
This story appeared on page 1 of the August 16, 2023 print edition of the Colonie Spotlight.