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Parents fume after students at James Madison High forced to learn remotely while school housed asylum seekers

By Natalie Duddridge

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    NEW YORK, New York (WCBS) — Frustration has been escalating ever since parents and some community leaders learned James Madison High School students in Brooklyn would have to stay home Wednesday and learn remotely in order to accommodate asylum seekers temporarily staying at their school to escape Tuesday’s storm.

The decision to do so left many wondering if it schools could be impacted every time there is a severe weather event.

Expressing outrage, parents and some Midwood community members argued students’ classes at James Madison High should never have been moved online to make room for asylum seekers to temporarily shelter in their gym and auditorium during the storm.

“It’s inexcusable to do this to the students of New York City, especially after all they’ve been through with COVID,” one person said.

“They have to come up with another solution. They cannot do this to school kids,” a resident named Steve said.

Parents told CBS New York they were surprised when they were notified Tuesday their students would learn remotely. They were even less impressed when they said some online classes never happened.

“My son woke up for the first period. His teacher didn’t show up. He waited for the second, no teacher,” a mother named Tatyana said.

On Tuesday, city officials announced nearly 2,000 asylum seekers from about 500 families would be bused from their tent shelters at Floyd Bennett Field to James Madison High due to concerns over the tents’ ability to stand up to severe weather.

“Were doing this out of an abundance of caution because of the high winds,” New York City Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said.

City officials said migrant families were bused back to Floyd Bennett Field at 4:15 a.m. on Wednesday, a timing decision state Assemblyman Michael Novakhov also questioned, along with the costs, staffing and planning required to relocate hundreds of people.

“I’m sympathetic to migrants, to have no idea why they removed during the night. Those people have kids — 4:15 in the morning? School is closed anyways. They could’ve stayed here until 6 or 7 a.m.,” Novakhov said.

Community leaders and elected officials said they can give the city a list of empty buildings — not schools — better suited to housing migrants, should this happen again.

Meanwhile, James Madison High was being cleaned and sports practices were canceled Wednesday.

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