MA’s poorest schools, already overwhelmed by immigrants, brace for more

MA’s poorest schools, already overwhelmed by immigrants, brace for more

Some of the state’s poorest school districts — already overwhelmed by immigrant children — are bracing for a new wave of Central American kids enrolling this fall that officials fear will further drain limited resources for English-speaking students.

“We certainly don’t want to communicate that our city is not a welcoming place, especially for young children, but we have to be concerned about our finances and our ability to serve all of our citizens,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “If the point comes where we feel as though our resources are getting too strained, we’re going to look to the state and federal government for assistance because that is only fair.”

Mitchell said school officials told him four families — three from Guatemala and one from Honduras — recently released from immigration detention centers in Texas will be enrolling their kids in New Bedford public schools this fall.

The flood of immigrant students comes as the nation scrambles to absorb about 57,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who have swarmed across the country’s southern border since the fall. Gov. Deval Patrick said this week he wants to shelter some of those kids in Massachusetts after receiving a request from the Obama administration — a plan some say could tax local school budgets.

“We’re very concerned about an influx because our ability to support these students and their families will be compromised simply because we won’t be able to anticipate their needs,” said Elizabeth Barry, Brockton’s deputy superintendent of learning and teaching, who said the city has been hit already with an increase in students from Central America.

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