System expands ESOL classes to three schools

To cater to an increasing number of pupils who don't speak English, Columbia County education officials intend to add more language courses for them.

The school system will add English to Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, classes at Westmont Elementary School and at Greenbrier and Evans high schools this year.

The school system already offers these classes at Grovetown and Stevens Creek elementary schools, Lakeside and Grovetown middle schools and Lakeside and Harlem high schools.

Last year, the school system had 160 pupils enrolled in the classes, said Deborah Franklin, the assistant superintendent of student learning.

"I don't think that number's going to drop," she said.

Lauren Williams, the associate superintendent of student learning, agreed.

"It's not a huge population, but it's inching up," she said.

The classes at Greenbrier and Evans will give students a program that is based in their own high schools, Dr. Franklin said.

The class is part of a pupil's schedule in middle and high school. Elementary school pupils are pulled out of other classes to receive the instruction. Children whose schools do not have ESOL classes are bused to schools that offer the program.

Dr. Franklin said a class is being added at Westmont to accommodate increasing enrollment and to relieve overcrowded ESOL classes at Grovetown Elementary. She said Westmont is centrally located for pupils at Bel Air, Martinez and Lewiston elementary schools.

A part-time teaching position will be added at Westmont, Dr. Franklin said, and current teachers at Evans and Greenbrier high schools will teach one or two periods of ESOL.

She said the majority of ESOL pupils in the Grovetown area speak Spanish or Chinese as a first language.

"There are 14 different languages at the high school level," Dr. Franklin said.

The high school students' native languages include Chinese, Japanese and Russian, said Dr. Franklin, and Stevens Creek also has a diverse population of ESOL pupils.

Kindergartners through third-graders are required to take 225 minutes of ESOL classes, which are divided into 45-minute segments a week, Dr. Franklin said. Fourth and fifth grades must take five 50-minute ESOL classes each week, and sixth- through 12th-graders must take five 55-minute classes every week.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, orbetsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.