LAFAYETTE — Mona Credeur read aloud to her class the story of “Pamela Camel” who tries to save a train from derailing off broken railroad tracks.

“Woot-woot, toot-toot!” Credeur read the words that signaled the train’s approach.

“That’s onomatopoeia,” Credeur said as she paused to explain the meaning and instructed the middle school-age students from Morocco, Cuba, Yemen, Mexico, Iraq, Venezuela, Guatemala, China and Korea to repeat the word earlier this week.

The class is part of the Lafayette Parish school system’s English as a Second Language summer enrichment program that targets foreign students in pre-K through 12th grade whose English skills are limited. The program ends Thursday for the 64 students.

Typically, 100 to 120 students attend the program in the summer, and the enrollment drop is a positive sign, said Beth Thomas, ESL instructional coordinator.

Eligibility is based on students’ performance on the English Language Development Assessment, which tests proficiency in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

“When we got the results from ELDA, we were excited because we had a lot of children who showed progress,” Thomas said.

The summer program is thematic and this year, the activities centered on Middle Eastern cultural studies.

While the activities are content-focused to build knowledge in English language arts, math or social studies, the emphasis of the program is on improving students’ English language skills, said Janie Ellison, ESL curriculum coordinator.

“Our goal is to give these kids a leg up in the summer,” Ellison said.

High-schoolers in the program read stories from “The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights” and created muraqqas, an album of drawings based on the stories. Students also drew storyboards and summarized story lines.

In an art class, incoming kindergarteners learned of the tradition of henna tattoos and traced their hands onto paper to create henna markings.

Throughout the school year, the parish offers services to ESL students, including placement classes taught by highly qualified, ESL-certified teachers and help from certified bilingual assistants.

Five schools offer ESL services: Broadmoor Elementary, Ridge Elementary, Judice Middle, Edgar Martin Middle and Lafayette High.

More than 900 Lafayette Parish students are identified as ESL learners, but about half of those students receive ESL services, Thomas said.

Those students identified as ESL learners who are not receiving ESL services either have achieved fluency or their parents have opted out of receiving services and typically return to their home school zone, Ellison explained.

The bilingual assistants do not instruct the students, Ellison said, but support the instruction and help assess the students’ learning ability in their first-language. The bilingual assistants also assist with parent communication, she said.

The top three foreign languages spoken by ESL students are Spanish, Vietnamese and Arabic, Ellison said.