GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A community briefing about the planned Greensboro Piedmont Academy Influx Care Facility is just days away.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services invited at least some elected leaders to attend a session at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 29. It’s unclear generally who was invited or what they might learn, and there is speculation that some community leaders have been briefed on a more routine basis.

The facility, located on the former American Hebrew Academy campus at 4334 Hobbs Road in Greensboro, would house unaccompanied immigrant children temporarily — about two or three weeks — while family members and sponsors are located. The facility is intended to provide shelter for children ages 13 through 17 and has a capacity of up to 800 beds.

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The briefing was initially intended to take place nearly two months ago. However, it was abruptly canceled in July by the Office for Refugee Resettlement “to ensure that the correct participants and stakeholders are involved so we can provide the most comprehensive update.”

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chair Skip Alston were participants in a similar briefing a year ago. A second briefing in August 2022 included U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) and other state-level elected officials.

Jeff Newbold, the deputy of operations of the ORR is said to be coordinating this briefing and overseeing the national opening of facilities.

American Hebrew Academy (Google, Maxar Technologies, US Geological Survey, USDA/FPAC/GEO)
American Hebrew Academy (Google, Maxar Technologies, US Geological Survey, USDA/FPAC/GEO)

What’s happening on the campus?

Large tour buses were spotted last month on the campus of the former American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, where the Greensboro Influx Care Facility for unaccompanied immigrant children will be operated. (WGHP)

Although the facility is abuzz with activity, the arrival of immigrant children could be months away. The ORR has kept the facility on “warm” status, meaning that there are preparations of the grounds and hiring of additional individuals that must occur before children are received.

Since a contract was reached in the spring with Deployed Resources of Rome, New York, to handle security, maintenance and janitorial services, there has been a steady flow of workers at the facility.

Deployed Resources has been employing workers around the clock, and because of limitations for parking on-site and to mitigate traffic in the residential communities outside the facility’s gate, those workers are parking off-site and arriving for their shifts in shuttle buses – the larger, touring-sized vehicles.

About the program

DHHS in early June 2022 leased the Greensboro facility for 5 years with an option for 5 more, and a staff of about 1,500 employees is being hired to oversee the children on a 24-7 basis.

The ORR said in its letter to leaders last summer that “an individual needs assessment, a complete medical exam within 48 hours of arrival, appropriate immunizations and medical care, daily classroom education on-site, at least two group counseling sessions and one individual session with a licensed clinician weekly, case management services, outdoor and indoor recreation, contact with family members, and access to legal services.”

The ORR operates about 200 facilities in 22 states and has done so since 2002’s Homeland Security Act. In Fiscal Year 2021 the program handled 122,731 children, its information sheet saysDHHS reps earlier said there were about 8,749 such children in their system now. Its rule of thumb has been that when those locations are at 85% of capacity, an additional facility is opened.

ORR says that in Fiscal Year 2021, about 7 out of 10 children at its facilities were 14 or older, and two-thirds were boys. About half of them were from Guatemala and about a third were from Honduras. The rest were from El Salvador and other countries.

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There are a handful of other facilities like Greensboro that are on “warm” status, and speculation is that a facility in Pecos, Texas, will be opening soon.

The property on Hobbs Road is 100 gated acres that include 31 buildings of 412,712 square feet, an $18 million athletic center and natatorium, a variety of athletic fields and a 22-acre lake. The facility would be used to provide housing, classrooms and recreational facilities for the children who are unaccompanied or who are waiting for family members and sponsors.

The facility was formerly The American Hebrew Academy, a private boarding school operated as a 501(c)(3) organization, but its enrollment started to wane before the COVID-19 pandemic when it was shut down. It lists the Greensboro Global Academy as an educational program.