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Norwalk International Academy to Support English Language Learners

Board of Ed approves $181,257 in transfers for program

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Norwalk, CT | Added on December 17, 2014 At 08:34 PM

Throughout the year of 2014, Norwalk Public Schools has received a roughly 22 percent increase students who cannot speak English fluently, and now the Norwalk Board of Education is stepping up to help fund a Norwalk International Academy at Norwalk High School and Brien McMahon High School to support English Language Learners (ELL) students. 

"This will alleviate the overcrowding of our ESL classes at the high school and also better meet the needs of these new students, some of whom have missed several years in their education," said Helen Becker, NPS ELL Education Instructional Specialist.  

On Tuesday night, the board approved $181,257 in budget transfers to help kickstart the Norwalk International Academy for next semester. Helen Becker, Norwalk Public Schools instructional specialist in ELL education says Norwalk's Public Schools now have 1,580 students learning to speak English, an increase in 280 students from last year. 

"We just got three new students in the last two weeks who are in that number," said Becker. "Previously our English Language Learners were about 12 percent of our school population and now they're 14 percent." 

Becker says 85 students who have crossed the Mexico/U.S. border currently live with families in Norwalk.  

"The typical student we're getting now from the three countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, we were getting these unaccompanied minors, the typical student is missing two to three years of education," said Becker. 

She also says due to the surge in these students many ESL level one classes do not have enough room for every student and this requires more ELL staff in Norwalk's elementary, middle and high schools, which the school system does not currently have.  

"I feel that we've really reached a tipping point where the ESL and bilingual teachers were stretched so thin that I'm started to question the effectiveness of the services," Becker said.  

The transfers to benefit the academy come from unencumbered funds that were generated throughout salary savings, which would have represented surplus funds at the end of the year if they were not currently in use.


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