Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Private Greensboro school could be used to house immigrant children who crossed the U.S. border unaccompanied by an adult
0 Comments
featured

Private Greensboro school could be used to house immigrant children who crossed the U.S. border unaccompanied by an adult

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

Updated 8:10 p.m.

GREENSBORO — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is considering using the site of the former American Hebrew Academy as a relocation center for unaccompanied immigrant children as they await reunion with family members in the U.S.

Melvin "Skip" Alston, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, said Thursday that HHS officials came to Greensboro Tuesday to inspect the dormitory and classroom buildings at the academy campus to consider whether it would be suitable.

Alston said he is not sure when the government will make a decision, but such a center would have a big impact on Greensboro.

If the government chooses the Greensboro site, it could hold from 700-800 minors aged 12-18 who have entered the country without family members and are going through the process of contacting relatives in the United States.

The site could also employ up to 800 people.

"Greensboro and Guilford County are uniquely situated to be a candidate for the proposed youth village given its extraordinary transportation options, rich network of international support services, and history of refugee resettlement," Guilford County officials said in a statement.

American Hebrew Academy, which was the country's only Jewish boarding school, closed in 2019, for what leaders said were financial reasons.

The school opened on a 100-acre campus in northwest Greensboro in 2001 and boasted a pool and an athletic facility among other amenities. It attracted Jewish students from around the world, but lost money every year from 2006 to 2017, according to tax data reviewed by the News & Record.

After the academy closed, school leaders secured a financing deal in hopes of reopening, borrowing $26 million against the property from Puxin Ltd., a Chinese education company.

School leaders announced plans to reopen as AHA International School and welcome students of all religious backgrounds from across the world for the 2020-21 school year, later pushing that opening to this academic year. However, the status of the school is now unclear and the school’s website appears to no longer be working.

No one responded to voicemails left in January by the News & Record seeking comment on a tip about layoffs at that time, nor to voicemails left Thursday.

Scott Culclasure, a previous employee of American Hebrew Academy, said Thursday he developed an online course aimed at Chinese international students for AHA International at the school’s request. He said he had expected to teach the course early this year but was told in January it was not moving forward.

“I do not know if the school still exists,” he said.

Culclasure also said the site likely has the capacity to house 400 children, not 700 to 800.

The county said the school site at 4334 Hobbs Road can easily be converted to a youth village and provide a "safe and secure transition point for those unaccompanied minors who are placed into the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Selection criteria include sites that can provide basic standards of care to ensure the child’s physical safety, access to legal services information, and access to clinical services during the emergency intake process."

Unaccompanied minors in such a center could live there between a few weeks and a few months as they await being reunified with their parents, guardians, relatives or sponsors living in the United States.

Greensboro officials said in a prepared statement that neither the city nor county solicited the federal government to set up a site here. And any such site would not be part of the school system or social services.

"This will also come without incentives or any cost to the City or County," the city said in the statement, adding that HHS "will solely make the decision what facilities it selects across the country."

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said HHS is looking at other locations “but in a meeting with them they stressed that there wouldn’t be any impact on local services.”

She said that the site could be used as a transition site for unaccompanied children for five years or more and is not considered temporary.

Vaughan added that the campus security system is already top notch because the American Hebrew Academy was considered a potential terrorist target.

“They were very careful with their security. It was meant to keep the children on campus and strangers off campus,” Vaughan said. “They spared no expense with security measures.”

The Greensboro site would serve as a way station that is better than the holding centers at the U.S.-Mexico border, Alston said. The U.S. government under both the Trump and Biden administrations has been criticized for operating centers that have held children in cage-like rooms and crowded conditions.

Alston said the site would be a temporary home for these children who need good living conditions while they seek their families.

"These kids are not coming here to stay — it’s a transitional site — they would come here to have better, more humane situations while they’re getting in touch with their next of kin," Alston said. "The way that we treat them now is gonna affect them for the rest of their lives — these are innocent kids."

Vaughan said the average stay for a child in such a transition center is 37 days.

Lee Stevens, a senior adviser in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for HHS said in a letter to local and state officials that HHS currently has more than 14,000 beds to house these children and has added another 14,000 "emergency intake site" beds "to aggressively address both the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing numbers of (unaccompanied children.)"

HHS officials have met with Alston, Vaughan and U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning, whose 6th District covers Guilford County.

Guilford County Manager Michael Halford said in a letter to commissioners Wednesday that HHS "continuously conducts assessments of facilities across the country for their suitability to house unaccompanied children while they await unification with family members or other suitable sponsors. We will not know if HHS has selected the Academy for some time, perhaps several months."

In the meantime, Alston says the center could be a good thing for Greensboro and Guilford County for several reasons.

First, the jobs would be good ones and government managers would hire the employees from this area.

Second, being considered for such a center calls attention to Greensboro and Guilford County across the country.

Earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency selected Greensboro for a mass coronavirus vaccination site and that reflected well on the community, Alston said.

The fact that officials are considering the site of the former American Hebrew Academy "says a lot to our corporate people around the country that we take care of our people for vaccinations and we’re a welcoming community to welcome these immigrant kids who are living in inhumane conditions."

The New York Times and other news outlets reported earlier this week that the government has dramatically reduced the number of children being held at detention centers operated by the Border Patrol.

Support Local Journalism

Your subscription makes our reporting possible.
{{featured_button_text}}

The newspaper reported that on Friday the government showed a more than 80% drop over the past month in the number of migrant children in Border Patrol custody. That number, the Times reported, was down to 790 on Thursday, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, said in an interview. A month ago, 5,767 migrant children were in Border Patrol custody, the newspaper reported.


Updated 5:18 p.m.

GREENSBORO — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is considering using the site of the former American Hebrew Academy as a relocation center for unaccompanied immigrant children as they await reunion with family members in the U.S.

Melvin "Skip" Alston, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, said Thursday that HHS officials came to Greensboro Tuesday to inspect the dormitory and classroom buildings at the academy campus to consider whether it would be suitable.

Alston said he is not sure when the government will make a decision, but such a center would have a big impact on Greensboro.

If the government chooses the Greensboro site, it could hold from 700-800 minors aged 12-18 who have entered the country without family members and are going through the process of contacting relatives in the United States.

The site could also employ up to 800 people.

"Greensboro and Guilford County are uniquely situated to be a candidate for the proposed youth village given its extraordinary transportation options, rich network of international support services, and history of refugee resettlement," Guilford County officials said in a statement.

American Hebrew Academy, which was the country's only Jewish boarding school, closed in 2019 and was rebranded the AHA International School. It had planned to reopen to students this school year, but the status of the school is unclear. The school's website appears to no longer be working and the person listed on LinkedIn as AHA's principal since 2019 could not be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon.

The county said the former American Hebrew Academy at 4334 Hobbs Road can easily be converted to a youth village and provide a "safe and secure transition point for those unaccompanied minors who are placed into the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Selection criteria include sites that can provide basic standards of care to ensure the child’s physical safety, access to legal services information, and access to clinical services during the emergency intake process."

Unaccompanied minors in such a center could live there between a few weeks and a few months as they await being reunified with their parents, guardians, relatives or sponsors living in the United States.

Greensboro officials said in a prepared statement that neither the city nor county solicited the federal government to set up a site here. And any such site would not be part of the school system or social services.

"This will also come without incentives or any cost to the City or County," the city said in the statement, adding that DHHS "will solely make the decision what facilities it selects across the country."

The Greensboro site would serve as a way station that is better than the holding centers at the U.S.-Mexico border, Alston said. The U.S. government under both the Trump and Biden administrations has been criticized for operating centers that have held children in cage-like rooms and crowded conditions.

Alston said the site would be a temporary home for these children who need good living conditions while they seek their families.

"These kids are not coming here to stay — it’s a transitional site — they would come here to have better more humane situations while they’re getting in touch with their next of kin," Alston said. "The way that we treat them now is gonna affect them for the rest of their lives — these are innocent kids."

Lee Stevens, a senior adviser in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs for HHS said in a letter to local and state officials that HHS currently has more than 14,000 beds to house these children and has added another 14,000 "Emergency Intake Site" beds "to aggressively address both the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing numbers of (unaccompanied children.)"

HHS officials have met with Alston, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning, whose 6th District covers Guilford County.

Guilford County Manager Michael Halford said in a letter to commissioners Wednesday that HHS "continuously conducts assessments of facilities across the country for their suitability to house unaccompanied children while they await unification with family members or other suitable sponsors. We will not know if HHS has selected the Academy for some time, perhaps several months."

In the meantime, Alston says the center could be a good thing for Greensboro and Guilford County for several reasons.

First, the jobs would be good ones and government managers would hire the employees from this area.

Second, being considered for such a center calls attention to Greensboro and Guilford County across the country.

Earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency selected Greensboro for a mass coronavirus vaccination site and that reflected well on the community, Alston said.

The fact that officials are considering the site of the former American Hebrew Academy "says a lot to our corporate people around the country that we take care of our people for vaccinations and we’re a welcoming community to welcome these immigrant kids who are living in inhumane conditions."

The New York Times and other news outlets reported earlier this week that the government has dramatically reduced the number of children being held at detention centers operated by the Border Patrol.

The newspaper reported that on Friday the government showed a more than 80% drop over the past month in the number of migrant children in Border Patrol custody. That number, the Times reported, was down to 790 on Thursday, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, said in an interview. A month ago, 5,767 migrant children were in Border Patrol custody, the newspaper reported.


GREENSBORO — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is considering using the site of the former American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro as a relocation center for unaccompanied immigrant minors as they await reunion with family members in the U.S.

County Commissioners Chairman Melvin "Skip" Alston said Thursday that HHS officials came to Greensboro Tuesday to inspect the dormitory and classroom buildings at the academy campus to consider whether it would be suitable. 

American Hebrew Academy, which closed in 2019, was rebranded the AHA International School, which has not yet opened to students.

Alston said he is not sure when the government will make a decision, but such a center would have a big impact on Greensboro.

If the government chooses the Greensboro site, it could hold from 700-800 minors aged 12-18 who have entered the country without family members and are going through the process of contacting relatives in the United States.

The Greensboro site would serve as a way station that is better than the holding centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. government, both the Trump and Biden administrations, have been criticized for operating centers that have held children in cage-like rooms and crowded conditions.

Alston said also that the center could employ as many as 800 people from security officers to teachers and psychologists.

He said the site would be a temporary home for these children who need good living conditions while they seek their families.

"These kids are not coming here to stay — it’s a transitional site — they would come here to have better, more humane situations while they’re getting in touch with their next of kin," Alston said.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

0 Comments

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Recommended for you

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News