English language learners on the rise in Shenandoah County

The English as a Second Langauge (ESL) program in Shenenadoah County has seen a surge in numbers over the last decade.

Kelly Storey, federal programs coordinator for Shenandoah County Public schools, said, as of December, there are 388 English language learners (ELL) in the county.

A decade ago, during the 2005-2006 school year, there were only 239 English language learners in the school. Today, this number has gone up by over 100 students.

At the elementary level, W.W. Robinson has the highest number of ELL students, with 166. At the middle school level, Peter Muhlenberg sees the highest with 39 students, and Central High School has the most for the high school level, with 35 students.

She said 96 percent of ESL students in Shenandoah County Public Schools speak Spanish as their first language. Other languages include French, Chinese Mandarin, Vietnamese, Nepali, Telugu, and Mayan.

“Our ESL students share the same goals as students who are native English speakers,” she said, “They want to be productive, successful members of their communities and graduate college and be career ready.”

ELL students are taught in a way that hits home for the individual students. There are currently 12 ESL teachers and one instructional assistant who works with these students regularly.

“Instruction is based on a student’s level of English proficiency, Level 1 Beginning, through Level 6 Formerly LEP. The ESL teachers use a variety of instructional methods to meet the needs of individual students,” she said, “Services are delivered individually, in small groups, and through an in-class model learning with classroom teachers.”

She added that many ESL students are excelling in their studies. There are secondary Formerly LEP students currently enrolled in AP and Dual Enrollment courses, they are in the Teachers for Tomorrow and Bio-medical programs, and others are following career training pathways at Triplett Tech.

“Through a collaborative effort, they all have the opportunity to graduate as bilingual learners,” she said.

In the last decade, Shenandoah County has seen a rise in these ESL students. Storey believes this is due to employment opportunities and a low cost of living.

“The agricultural and industrial employment opportunities, coupled with a relatively low cost of living makes Shenandoah County a desirable place to live,” she said, “Not just for our English learners, but for many looking to relocate. The center of the county also offers the greatest amount of affordable housing in close proximity to schools, churches and shopping.”

In the future, Storey hopes the program will be able to achieve a few more goals.

One goal is having more ESL teachers in each of the schools.

“Through the support of the School Board and Board of Supervisors we have been able to realize that goal on both the southern and central campuses,” she said.

Currently the northern campus schools share one teacher.

“A full-teacher at Sandy Hook and a teacher split between Signal Knob Middle School and Strasburg High School would afford the students on the Northern Campus the same educational opportunities as those at other division schools,” she added.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com