Florida schools get ready for flood of border kids


READY FOR SCHOOL?: School districts in Florida are preparing for an influx of children who recently have crossed the U.S. southern border illegally.

By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog

MIAMI — With more than 51,000 unaccompanied Central American children already here, and more expected to come, school officials ask the federal government for a helping hand.

Border kids costs more to educate, about $1,900 per head. Teachers must be bilingual. The students will need health care and psychological services because many arrive sick and traumatized by things they;ve seen and experienced on their journeys north.

Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, communications officer at the Miami-Dade County Public School, said up until now, the school district have relied on their emergency funds to help cover the costs.

“We are asking the federal government to help us with this additional cost,” she said. “We are here to help those children, we have a history of helping them, as we did when the earthquake hit Haiti, and when political problems arose in Cuba.

“We won’t stop providing them an education,” she said. “But we don’t want the (local) taxpayer to pay for it. That’s why we are asking for federal funds.”

She said that just before the end of school in June, her district saw about 300 border kids, coming from Honduras.

“We don’t know how many more are coming this upcoming school year because Central America children usually enroll just two or three weeks before the school year begins,” Gonzalez-Diego said.

While the Palm Beach County School District says they haven’t seen an uptick of border kids enrolling, they won’t be caught off guard for the 2014-15 school year, which begins in August.

“We are accustomed to receiving an influx of children based on different situations that happen around the world,” said Natalia Powers, communications manager for the Palm Beach County School District.

The 2010 Haiti earthquake caused an influx of Haitian students in their district.

“Our district and schools were ready to provide them with services, and what we cannot provide we work out with community partnerships,” she said.

Powers said Palm Beach County schools are not asking for additional funds right now, but they won’t know what to expect until they get closer to the beginning of the school year.

The Guatemalan Mayan Center, a Lake Worth, Fla.-based community organization that offers assistance and language classes to immigrants, has seen an uptick in the number of immigrants seeking help.

“Last year, we had three students. This yea,r we’ve got 50,” said volunteer Micaela Martí.

She said the children are 5 and 7 who come to the center to learn English because they arrived too late for the school year.

School officials in Hillsborough County, which has a large Hispanic population, did not respond to a request for information.

In Pasco County, shelters expect to double their capacity.

Tampa NBC affiliate WFLA reported the Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services is asking Pasco County’s Planning Commission to double shelter capacity to 32 beds to accommodate more border children. But neighbors of the center have mixed reactions.

Florida Watchdog contacted Americans for Immigrant Justice, a facility that houses border-crossing children, but they declined a request for an interview or to provide any information about the children.

In Brevard County, the Children’s Home Society of Florida confirmed to Breitbart News that some unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border of the U.S. will be sent to local foster homes in the state next month.