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Chicopee School Leaders Concerned Over Immigrant Children

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB) — Local school officials have added their concern to the possibility that Westover Air Reserve Base could be selected as a temporary site to house up to a thousand children fleeing from Central America.

Chicopee Superintendent of Schools Richard Rege explains, “It’s a difficult proposition for us because while we feel a great deal of humanitarian compassion because these are kids, we also have to look at our capacity to help.”

While Governor Patrick says the proposal to house the children at Westover would be a temporary fix, there is growing skepticism in the city of Chicopee about whether the school system would eventually be asked to educate the children.

“Right now, Chicopee public schools are full, first of all as viewers well know, we have the highest percentage of homeless living in hotels in the entire state,” says Rege.

Superintendent Rege says the homeless issue should have been resolved by now, but it continues to impact the Chicopee school system, which is required to educate children living in motels in the city.

He says the possibility of adding large numbers of additional students is not a feasible option.

“The bottom line, however, is that our capacity as a school district is not going to increase by waving a magic wand. We have ‘x’ number of buildings, ‘x’ number of classrooms, ‘x’ number of staff , ‘x’ number of dollars and that’s not going to change based on the length of their stay,” says Rege.

The Governor says up to a thousand of the children would be housed at Westover. The plan is to keep the temporary site operational for no more than four months.

Governor Patrick says the federal government will look at the two possible sites in the state and that one or none may be chosen. Again, he said the shelter site would be temporary until the children are either deported back to the country they came from, re-united with a family member or sponsor in the United States, or processed for asylum status.

The Governor says that local school systems like Chicopee wouldn’t be affected because the shelter would be temporary and secure.


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