North Carolina high school to close, make way for 'newcomer school' for refugees, families

The "newcomer school" would be "more akin to a migrant resettlement of assimilation facility."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

A public alternative high school in New Hanover County, North Carolina, has been the proposed location for a "newcomers school" for refugees. The school would be intended for use by the children of refugees, asylum seekers, and illegal immigrants who have been arriving by the millions into the US since Joe Biden took the White House in 2021. The school will be publicly funded and would take the space of the Career Readiness Academy at Mosley High School.

In speaking out against the plan on Monday at a New Hanover County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Dane Scalise said the Board of Education should not close the current high school just to open a program that would be "not really a school in the traditional sense." He said that the facility would be "more akin to a migrant resettlement of assimilation facility." Others have called it a "refugee school." He spoke about how Guilford County was already a locus for "refugee resettlement" after their "newcomer school" opened.

During a November 28, 2023 meeting, Dr. Patrice Faisan discussed the plan for the "newcomer school." 

"There are different models. The best model, talking to those who have models and looking at the research, is the newcomer school," Faisan said. "Where you actually have a facility where you house and actually educate these students together, provide parental wrap-around support services. So it's just not about the students receiving support, you also will be helping the families in this center as well."

She went on to tell the New Hanover County School Board, who were learning about this for the first time despite it having been in the planning stages since 2021, "part of this, we actually will have what we're calling a 'newcomer center' for parents and that would be a room where we want to make sure we can help parents access some of the things that they need to access."

Faisan said that her team was "already working with the wraparound services that would be needed there. So this is just not an academic endeavor. This is a total endeavor strongly with student support. They are hand in hand with us on this as they need to be." 

It's not just what the school building would turn into that is at issue for the community, but what the educational system would be losing. Parents were informed of the decision to close the school via a letter from the Career Readiness Academy principal on December 1, 2023. 

Members of the Mosely community, with 63 students and 15 staff members, spoke up too after it was announced by the New Hanover County Schools that it would be closed after the 2023-24 school year and not reopened.

On Tuesday, Faisan, who spoke about the already-underway plan in November, told the community that the Mosely wasn't worth saving. She said the graduation rate is low, the cost-per-student is too high, and the space is underutilized. It was revealed during the meeting that Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust has been planning to close the school since 2021, though the public had not been informed of that decision.

Students and members of the school community all spoke up to keep the school open. Sophomore Esmerelda Avalos told local news that the school was worth saving due to the individual attention the students at the alternative public school get. "We get the support, the attention," she said. "They always help us. We're like a small family. Since I started to go to Mosley, I have seen that I have changed. My grades have been going up. I think it really helps me because I’m not fluent in English and I think they have helped me there."

A junior explained his love for the school. "It is not a behavior school. It is a school for people who need different environments and thrive differently and just all around need a place to be accepted," Alex Finley said. 

The decision to shut down Career Readiness Academy, located at the Mosley High School, was made by New Hanover County Schools administrators. The decisions were made, Cape Fear Beacon reports, "without the knowledge or consent of the school board." The new school will have 200 or more refugee, illegal immigrant, and asylum-seeking children within it. 

The school board learned of the decision on November 28. At that meeting, a presentation was made showing how far along the plan already was. Parents and staff were surprised by the plan. 

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