by Jalil Boulahssas

Schools like Stuart need to adjust to unmistakable changes concerning their student population. Stuart’s unique diversity requires a more advanced English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program year after year.

A new program to increase assistance to ESOL students could soon surface at Stuart High School. While it remains in the early planning stages, the program would feature a “school within a school”. FCPS Director of ESOL Services Rich Pollio said, “The Newcomers School is actually not a separate school, but an opportunity to give a distinct group of students new programming that fits their needs.”

The so-called Newcomers School program has been successful at other schools in helping immigrant students succeed. County officials have studied similar programs in Texas, New York and even close by Alexandria, areas that have similarly diverse high school populations. Now the same concepts could likely become part of the ESOL programs at both Stuart and Robert E. Lee.

The initial goal would be for students with language reposition to take credit-bearing classes with the support of ESOL teachers. “We are switching from traditional ESOL courses that only give elective credit, to courses such as English 9 for English Learners where our beginning English Learners will earn standard credit toward graduation,” said Pollio. “The current program does not allow students to earn enough credits toward graduation.”

The students in the program will benefit from new courses and extra support in counseling. They’ll receive more support from parent liaisons to communicate with families and a class entitled Strategies for Success will teach students new to the United States about the American school system and give them tools such as organizational and study skills.

According to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, the long term goals of the program are to provide students with a firm academic foundation, to develop English language proficiency, to assist students in their transition into American schools, to develop their multicultural understanding, to encourage students to continue their education and to enhance their self-esteem.

Despite the fact that the program remains in its formative stage, Superintendent Dr. Garza seemed optimistic when commenting on the program. She referred to the program as “a new phenomenon to monitor and anticipate new growth.” and also said that she believes it will cause greater growth in level 1 ESOL students, those who don’t speak English or haven’t previously been in school.

Although the Newcomers Program is only in its formative stage, the Stuart community looks forward to coming changes.

Photo by Jalil Boulahssas