LAFAYETTE — Earlier this month, the Lafayette Parish School System issued a call for educators certified to teach English as a second language to help foreign-born students catch up with their new peers, but those plans may change because of budget concerns.
The school system has about 1,400 students identified as English-as-a-second-language learners, up from last school year’s 1,223 ESL-identified students, based on information from Janie Ellison, the school system’s ESL coordinator.
The district has designated ESL classes at a handful of sites in the parish where students are taught by certified ESL teachers and also have the resource of a bilingual assistant who understands the challenges of learning a new language. But some families opt out of receiving ESL services for various reasons, including a school’s distance from where they live, Ellison said.
The school system had hoped to expand ESL classes at Carencro Heights Elementary and S.J. Montgomery Elementary because of a high number of in-zone ESL students in those areas, she said.
Last school year, the school system opened up kindergarten and first-grade ESL classes at Carencro Heights, and this school year a second-grade class was added, said Nicole Boudreaux, the school system’s world language specialist.
This school year, a kindergarten teacher at S.J. Montgomery was hired recently and the goal is to add more teachers there, Ellison said.
A focus was placed on S.J. Montgomery because a large number of ESL students living in-zone opted out of ESL services because their choices were to go to Carencro Heights for grades kindergarten through second and Ridge Elementary for grades third through fifth, Ellison said.
“Some families have refused because it splits up the family, so they choose to go to S.J. Montgomery,” Ellison said.
But ongoing budget concerns in the school system could stall those hires, Boudreaux noted. She said she’ll soon make a presentation to the School Board that outlines the needs and alternative solutions, if more funding isn’t available.
The School Board will meet sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday to consider potential revisions to the 2014-15 budget. The nine-member board adopted the 2014-15 budget in September; however, the spending plan wasn’t implemented until last week after the board voted 6-2 on Nov. 19 for staff to follow the plan.
Former Superintendent Pat Cooper had blocked the budget’s implementation for the past two months, objecting to the board’s approved cuts and claiming the board didn’t comply with state laws in the budget preparation and adoption process.
The board voted to fire Cooper on Nov. 6 for certain management decisions, but those did not include his blocking the 2014-15 budget.
Since the start of the fiscal year on July 1, the school system has operated using 50 percent of last year’s budget and Cooper continued operations under last year’s spending plan even after the board adopted a budget on Sept. 15.
The board’s adopted budget would reduce some personnel positions; however, the board deferred staffing adjustments until Dec. 31 to allow staff time to present budget revisions and make a case for the current staffing levels.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.