GREENSBORO — The federal government will pay American Hebrew Academy Inc. $49.8 million to lease its 100-acre campus to house immigrant children while they await reunification with family members or sponsors in the United States.
The five-year lease is for the former school at 103 Daat Way, near Hobbs and Jefferson roads, according to usaspending.gov, a website set up under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. The lease started June 9 and runs through July 8, 2027.
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced June 10 that it would lease the school grounds to house the children. The children were expected to begin arriving this month.
People are also reading…
The American Hebrew Academy will also be contracted to provide educational programming for the children. Children will be taught reading, writing, math, science and social sciences, the Office of Refugee Resettlement said in June, as well as participate in recreational activities such as art, music and indoor and outdoor athletics.
“While in ORR care, children have access to medical treatment, legal services, translation services, education, and mental and behavioral health counselors and are able to connect with family at least twice a week,” the agency said in its statement. “Children also meet with a case manager at least weekly.”
The academy is expected to hire up to 800 people, including administrators, teachers, counselors, medical care professionals and other workers, to oversee the facility and meet the needs of unaccompanied children.
The federal agency will also contract for services such as food and security.
DHHS did not respond to emails sent by the News & Record in the past month requesting more details about the arrangement, including how many children the school could potentially host and how much it would pay the academy for providing educational services. By law, DHHS must provide care for children who have no lawful U.S. immigration status; are younger than 18; and who have no parent or legal guardian available to provide care and physical custody here.
Most of the children placed into DHHS care were apprehended by immigration authorities while trying to cross the border or came to the attention of immigration authorities after crossing the border, according to a federal fact sheet.
ORR said in a statement last month that to meet its legal responsibility, the agency “continuously explores potential facility options for future needs to ensure that children do not have to remain in border patrol facilities, which are not appropriate locations for children.”
In a June 23 letter sent to federal officials, eight congressional Republicans from North Carolina expressed concerns about the facility, calling it “a complete surprise to us and our constituents.”
The letter, sent to DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and ORR Acting Secretary Andrea Chapman, complained about President Joe Biden’s policies regarding securing the U.S.-Mexico border and criticized Becerra’s response to questions posed in 2021 about plans to send unaccompanied migrant children to North Carolina.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, asked Becerra during a May 12, 2021, subcommittee hearing regarding DHHS’ budget if the department planned to send minors to North Carolina. Becerra responded that “there is no plan that we can tell you to shelter children in North Carolina.”
Just a few days before that hearing, the city of Greensboro issued a news release that it had met on May 4, 2021, with DHHS officials to conduct a site assessment of the former American Hebrew Academy site as “a temporary influx housing for unaccompanied children.”
The letter was signed by Hudson, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-Denver; Rep. Ted Budd, R-Advance; Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Banner Elk; Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-Hendersonville; Rep. Dan Bishop, R-Charlotte; Rep. David Rouzer, R-Wilmington; and Rep. Gregory Murphy, R-Greenville.
Among the questions posed in the letter were how much taxpayer money is being used to house unaccompanied children and what plans are in place to prevent crowding, violence and outbreaks of disease at the academy.
A spokeswoman for McHenry said Wednesday he had not gotten a response to the letter.
Rep. Kathy Manning, D-Greensboro, whose district includes the facility, could not be reached for comment.
A report Friday from WGHP-Channel 8 indicates there will be two meetings later this month among “stakeholders” involved with the plans to host immigrant children. That report could not immediately be verified.
American Hebrew Academy closed in 2019 and plans to reopen it as AHA International School did not come to fruition. The highly secure facility has student residential quarters, an infirmary and a cafeteria, as well as three academic buildings.
The facility will be renamed the Greensboro Piedmont Academy Influx Care Facility for UC (unaccompanied minors), though the school will be called Greensboro Global Academy.