Hundreds of migrant children could enter SWFL school systems, federal data shows

We learned Wednesday the federal government sent hundreds of unaccompanied children who crossed the border to Southwest Florida over the last several months.

The School District of Lee County says it saw a slight increase in migrant students in April.

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 117 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors in Collier County from October to March 31.

With a growing number of children traveling across the border alone, Congressman Byron Donalds told Cape Coral City Council Wednesday this could add stress to school systems in Southwest Florida.

“But you couple that with children falling behind in distance learning and kids who are going to be in school in fall, if not now already who on grade level or age level are further behind, it puts pressure on school apparatus,” Donalds said.

Immigration Attorney Michael Raheb agrees.

“They have to be sheltered, schooled,” Raheb said.

Raheb says additional teachers will likely be needed.

“If they don’t speak English language, additional teachers are going to be needed just to begin to teach them the English language,” Raheb said. “Well, that costs money.”

Health and Human Services shows more than 1,500 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors in Florida. Those included the hundreds sent to Collier County, and 126 of those children are now in Lee County from the same time period.

Daniela Montejo understands what these children are going through.

“I’m from Belize, so I came here and I was a kid in the foster system,” Montejo said.

Montejo has her two children in the Collier County Public Schools system.

“There’s support somewhere, and I’m sure we could find it for these kids,” Montejo said. “They’re here already, so let’s do something for the children that are here already.”

Some worry about overwhelming the districts.

Lee County school district says it will continue to serve the migrant student population when children are enrolled.

We also reached out to the school districts in Charlotte and Collier counties but have not received a response.

MORE: Unaccompanied Children Released to Sponsors by County

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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