Influx of migrants strains public schools in Springfield; schools are struggling to teach and provide for migrant students with no previous education


In May 2023, the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, Domenic Sarno said that the city had taken its fair share of migrants and that it was time for the federal government to “get something done.” As of January 2024, it is estimated that taxpayers in Massachusetts have had to pay more than $300 million across the state to address what local reporting has described as a migrant crisis.  

In reviewing thousands of documents retrieved by Parents Defending Education via the Freedom of Information Act, there are indicators that show how this mass influx of migrant families has impacted schools in this northeastern state, particularly in the city of Springfield.

Thousands of dollars in local resources have been allocated to accommodate “newcomer students” and their families. This programming has included training sessions for teachers, administrators, and staff, as well as mental health support and translation services (both written and oral), which have included translating school documents in at least 17 different languages. Additional purchased documents include translation dictionaries for at least nine different languages.

In the emails reviewed, teachers admitted they were seeing “an influx of newcomers” and are seeing the number “rise on a daily basis.” They were looking to bring on additional hires to accommodate the increase in students coming from other countries. Another teacher vented that she had to find so many interpreters for these students that it had become a fulltime job.

Teachers also described the challenges of grading these students, many who have received very little-to-no formal schooling. Schools in one district were giving migrant students pass/fail grades, which differed from the general population of students since these migrants lacked any adequate metric to measure formal grades.

Interpreters for at least six different languages were requested to facilitate parent-teacher conferences.

Emails also showed school administrators inquired about purchasing translation dictionaries and other language resources using funds from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which was meant for school districts to use to adapt and recover from the COVID pandemic.

In the fall of 2023, the mayor’s office of West Springfield, Massachusetts, received a media inquiry asking how many migrant children had been enrolled in schools. Internal communications in the mayor’s office showed there were at least 135 migrant students the city was tracking.