Drop in ESL Utilization Causes Concern for School Board

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Lafayette Parish School System in Louisiana is planning the expansion of its English as a second language program. The plan calls for the services to be provided to students closer to their homes as a way to diminish the cost of transportation and boost participation.

The English as a second language services are designed to assist foreign students in transitioning to classes where only English is spoken. The Lafayette Parish School System currently has around 1,600 ESL students, but it is estimated that only half of the students are actually receiving ESL services.

Sandra Billeaudeau, Assistant Superintendent presented a plan to the School Board which requires the addition of six more ESL teachers to provide services in the areas that the ESL students reside. Currently the budget only has room to hire three of the six teachers.

Budget issues have been an ongoing problem with ESL services and have prevented the services from expanding at schools like Carencro Heights Elementary which enrolls a large population of ESL students. Students were bused 19 miles away to Ridge Elementary which drew concern among the School Board as well as parents. The distance has caused many parents to opt out of ESL services.

The new plan calls for a rerouting of the ESL services so that students are able to receive services at or near their current school and to keep siblings on the same campuses.

Erick Knezek, a School Board member stressed the importance of the ESL services stating that the school system had many students who are unable to understand the teacher. “We, the school system are being evaluated off the performance, and they can’t read English,” Knezek said.

While the proposed plan will eliminate overcrowding issues at schools, the estimated additional expense is $200,000.The School Board will discuss the budget concerns at an upcoming budget meeting.