Some CPS schools, local leaders concerned about supporting influx of migrant students

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
CPS schools, local leaders concerned about influx of migrant students
Chicago migrants from the Piotrowski Park shelter have been enrolling at Chicago Public Schools' Zapata Academy in Little Village.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Similar to many Chicago Public Schools on the South Side, Zapata Academy in Little Village has lost enrollment over the past few years, which is why Principal Salvador Velasco welcomes migrant children.

Most are coming from the nearby Piotrowski Park shelter.

"We currently have about 41 newcomer students. Most of them are from Venezuela," Velasco said.

SEE ALSO | City plans to move up to 190 migrants into Parthenon Guest House in Greektown

More students means more money, since school budgets are based on enrollment.

"The monetary piece is important getting different types of programs, like digital and texts," Velasco said.

Enrolling new arrivals is an easy fit for Zapata, since the school is home to many migrant children and has a built-in bilingual transition program. But, Velasco is concerned about being able to support a continued influx of new students.

"I just got an email from Piotrowski Park, and they have influx of more newcomers. I think, at some classrooms and grade levels, we are at our max with students," Velasco said.

According to CPS, the district is in the process of enrolling an estimated additional 1,000 English learner students now. That is on top of 1,200 enrolled over the summer and 5,300 last school year.

Roberto Clemente High School in Alderman Daniel LaSpata's ward is being used as a welcome resource center for all migrant students.

"Unless we are providing transportation over to Western and Division, it's a really under-utilized resource," LaSpata said.

LaSpata said the lack of transportation to Clemente and others schools is an issue. He is also concerned about providing migrant students with enough bilingual and social and emotional supports.

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"We are living in the moment, but we also need to communicate with all these stakeholders what their role in that plan is," LaSpata said.

Whether it is schools or other issues involving migrants, there is a growing consensus among city council members, including some of Mayor Brandon Johnson's biggest supporters, that the city must come up with a long-term comprehensive plan.