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Ex-Arizona schools considered for temporary migrant lodging

(Tucson Unified School District Photo)

PHOENIX– Arizona school district officials are considering former school buildings to house migrant families.

The Phoenix Elementary School District approved a three-month lease Friday for the Ann Ott School to temporarily house more than 80 people.

“Helping them transit through Phoenix to wherever they’re going is an important step in allowing them to be able to follow the legal process here for asylum,” International Rescue Committee director Aaron Rippenkroeger said.

Menlo Park Elementary and Howenstine Magnet High School are being considered by the Tucson Unified School District as alternatives to the county’s plan to accommodate families in the juvenile detention center.

“I’m really opposed to moving anyone to a detention facility,” school board president Adelita Grijalva said. “A throw rug isn’t going to change what it is.”

Officials are seeking a replacement for the Diocese of Tucson which has provided temporary lodging since last fall and will be repurposed into resident housing and retail space by the end of July.

County officials made a tentative agreement with Catholic Community Services, an organization under the Diocese, on Monday to move families to unused portions of the detention center.

“At first thought, the idea of using a detention center may not seem the best option; we hope that the treatment provided, along with some de-institutionalizing of the interior will help those staying there feel safe and welcome,” Catholic Bishop Edward Weisenburger said.

A recently closed bowling alley, former children’s home and previous heart hospital in the area have all been considered, but do not meet size or security standards, county officials said.

Families using the facilities stay no more than a couple days at a time after they have been processed and released by U.S. Border Control agents.

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