Watch CBS News

Concord-Carlisle School District gets support from community in welcoming migrant children

Concord-Carlisle School District gets support from community in welcoming migrant children
Concord-Carlisle School District gets support from community in welcoming migrant children 03:28

CONCORD - At first, Concord-Carlisle School District Superintendent Dr. Laurie Hunter admits it was a real shock. Suddenly being told a group of migrant children will be entering your school system. 

"It's overwhelming, that's the first response," Hunter said.  

There were many questions.

"You don't know, what you don't know. You don't know how many children there will be and what the needs are going to be. You have a moment of, 'OK, how are we going to do this,'" said Hunter.

Concord is one of many local towns faced with sheltering, supporting, and educating thousands of people suddenly just showing up in the state. Right now, roughly 6,000 families are here, needing help and their kids needing schools. Hunter had no choice but to pivot and figure it out fast.

"Let's stop being overwhelmed and start making a plan," said Hunter. "I met with my leadership team, and we really started to talk about possible impacts can be and hypnotizing when you don't know children. I asked for the state to get some level of English proficiency and just to give us as much background as possible. The next thing we did, and this became one of the most important things we did, was hire a family coordinator. So we have a full-time person who liaises with families. That has been critical."

Concord schools now have 18 students enrolled from the new families. Fifteen in elementary, two in middle school and one in the high school. With 30 preschoolers on the way.

"The biggest challenge, by far, is the language," said Hunter. "We can't easily communicate with the families or the children."

One of the keys, said the superintendent, is they weren't on their own. Other community groups, like the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest, jumped in to help. The community group was point for donations and support and immediately residents here responded. Donations started to pour in.

"They have been overwhelmingly supportive, calling, 'What can I do, how can I help?'" said Jennifer Ubaldino, the executive director of the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest.

There was even a back to school drive at the hotel housing the families.

"The shelter, with our support, put on an event for the kids. They got haircuts, they picked out backpacks and supplies and volunteers from National Charity League did face painting and crafts for the kids," said Ubaldino.

"The human connection is so powerful and real, it has changed us," said Hunter.

And within a few short months, the initial shock has turned into a much more meaningful life lesson.

"It's been really professionally and personally rewarding. I didn't think we expected that. You couldn't help but be touched and feel like you were changing lives," said Hunter.

Concord has had to bus 15 kids to other schools. That cost is only covered 50 percent by the state and is a real strain. They hope the federal government will step in and support the local communities with the growing financial challenge with the migrants.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.