Pressured by Hispanic parents and the state Department of Education, Orange County is about to make it easier for nearly 8,000 school students to learn English.
Superintendent Don Shaw said Wednesday that in the coming school year the district will hire at least 60 (some full-time, some part-time) new teachers for students with limited English skills, at a cost of more than $1.8 million.
“I really think it’s just a beginning,” said Linda Sutherland, an Orange County School Board member who helped organize a task force of Hispanic parents. “We definitely need to have more Hispanic role models in the schools. We need to have guidance counselors and administrators.”
The district also plans to:
Have every elementary school offer an English for Speakers of Other Languages
(ESOL) class. Currently all high schools and middle schools offer ESOL classes, but only 17 of the county’s 85 elementary schools offer ESOL or bilingual classes.
Translate student conduct rules and other districtwide documents into Spanish, Haitian Creole, French, Portuguese and Vietnamese.
Have five more elementary schools serve as bilingual centers, where Hispanic students will learn traditional subjects, such as math and science, in Spanish. That will bring the number of elementary bilingual centers to 19.
Have Apopka and Meadowbrook Middle schools serve as new Spanish bilingual centers and have Piedmont Lakes serve as a Haitian bilingual center. That will bring the number of Spanish bilingual middle school centers to 10 and the number of Haitian middle school centers to two.
Train about 20 minority district employees to someday become school administrators.
About 7,720 students use English as a second language, said Irma Moss, a senior administrator for the ESOL programs. That compares with about 590 students in 1984-85 and about 1,500 students in 1987-88.
The Hispanic student population has grown from 3,457 students in 1982 to 14,608 students last year, Moss said.
Last fall, Hispanic parents from the Colonial High area asked Shaw and Sutherland to form a task force to address their concerns. The group’s goals included more Hispanic administrators and better communication between educators and parents.
But some of the changes announced by Shaw also were ordered last month by the Florida Department of Education after complaints from disadvantaged non-English speaking students and their parents.
Francine Paradise, the Greater Orlando Area Legal Services lawyer who filed the complaints, said translation of district policies and rules was among the changes ordered by the Education Department.
“I had a Haitian student who was on the verge of expulsion,” she said. “He’d never received a Haitian code of conduct. The home-school communication issue is a real big issue.”
Offering classes in English as a second language at all elementary schools also will cut the number of students who have to be bused outside their neighborhoods to take the special classes. About 1,540 students are currently bused to ESOL or bilingual centers.