By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
For 112 out of the 2,564 students in the Moffat County school district, English is a second language. More than half of these students are so new to the United States that they hardly speak any English at all.
With a jump of 87 to 112 students deficient in English this year from last continuing the recent influx, the school district can only assume that there are more to come.
Because of the situation, the district is addressing the issue and planning for more influx in the future, said interim superintendent Pete Bergmann.
In April, 2001, the school board approved the English Language Learner (ELL) program.
At Monday night's Moffat County Board of Education meeting, program coordinator Dustin Ence, described ELL as a work in progress and compared it to new parents raising an infant.
"At times we are lost, confused and frustrated, while on other days we are rejoicing with the progress our students have made," he said.
Ence offered an analogy to explain the second language course.
"Just as an infant will depend on many people including parents, grandparents, relatives and friends during their lifetime, our ELL students will also depend on many people including administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals to help them succeed in the future," Ence said.
Martha Martinez handles the language responsibilities at Ridgeview Elementary, Lorraine Gonzales at Sunset and MCHS, Isis Martinez at East Elementary, Paula Robinson at CIS and Ence distributes his time between CMS, Sunset and MCHS.
Right now, Bergmann said the district is advertising for a part-time or possibly a full-time position that would provide each school with its own ELL paraprofessional.
Ence said anywhere you look in education, there seems to be a need for more staff. The ELL program is no exception.
"We're trying to do the best we can with the growing population of students," he said. "We realize the district doesn't want to over or under staff the program."
With the hiring of an additional staff member on the horizon, Ence said they will have reached one of their main goals of having one ELL paraprofessional in every building.
"The influx of students is impacting to a point where we need to hire another aide and have one available at each site," Bergmann said.
As coordinator, Ence said his job is not only to work with the ELL paraprofessionals, but also the teachers.
"Our goal is not to isolate these kids all day," he said. "The goal is to provide them with the resources necessary to help them learn."
This learning entails a teacher to provide more visual aides in classroom instruction so they are able to educate the ELL students without the assistance of a paraprofessional.
Because a paraprofessional must work with students in all grades and classes in a particular school, teachers must be able to teach the students when an aide is not available.
Ence said ELL has also begun to set up a mentor program where an English speaking student is chosen to simply help out a new student.
High school students in upper level Spanish also go to the elementary students to help tutor students.
Ence just started his job this fall in Moffat County and said he is still experiencing a learning curve, but said he wanted to stress to the community that they should be as open to their new neighbors as the schools are trying to be to the new students.
"We're trying to teach understanding and respect to the students," he said. "It needs to be pointed out that a lot of these children's families are definite assets to the community. These people are coming and we need to learn to get along with everyone."