More Help Needed for Students With Limited English Proficiency

Number of LEP students growing in Affton public schools

SCTnewlogoJust over 20 percent of the 2,400 students in the Affton public school system are bilingual, and 181 of those students are considered to be limited enough in English proficiency (LEP) to require special help.

Excluding the massive Kansas City and St. Louis public school districts, Affton’s percentage of students for whom English is not their primary language is in the top 20 statewide. The top three languages spoken by Affton students other than English are Spanish, Bosnian and Vietnamese.

The district teaching staff has seven members spread out over its four school buildings to work with students who don’t speak or write English well enough to progress through the grade levels, plus a full-time staff position that was added this year. But teacher Jessica Andrews, coordinator of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), reported to the board of education at its Oct. 16 meeting that even more help is needed.

“Numbers (of language minority) are continuing to rise, and we are concerned about the ratio and time allotted at Affton High School and Gotsch Intermediate,” Andrews told the board.

At Mesnier School, two teachers and one aide assist 87 LEP students. At Gotsch, there is one teacher and one aide for 57 LEPs; at Rogers, one teacher for 18 LEPs; and at the high school, one teacher for 19 LEPs.

“With the increasing number of LEP students entering our district, we are still above the recommended ratios at Gotsch and predict the numbers to be even higher next year,” Andrews said.

With the backing of her ESOL colleagues, Andrews asked that another teacher to be added to serve Gotsch next year.

Her report stated that according to the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE), newcomers and basic beginner (LEP) students grades four to 12 are to have a minimum of 600 suggested minutes a week with an ESOL-certified teacher.

“We cannot fulfill these services given the resources we have at this time,” she said.

The board did not suggest or take any immediate action following Andrews’ report.

Brotherton: Prop B Would Mean Extra Dollars Per Affton Student

Without officially endorsing Prop B, a Nov. 6 ballot measure that would raise the state tobacco tax to 90 cents from 17 cents, Superintendent Steve Brotherton made it a point to note its passage would mean more state money for Affton schools.

Brotherton said that estimated annual revenues from the proposed tax increase would be $283 to $423 million, “which would be earmarked for schools. It would mean an additional $160 to $298 (in state funds) for every Affton student.”

In other Affton School District news:

  • The final step in completion of the Early Childhood Education Center should be finished on Oct. 29 when the playground equipment is installed;
  • The board reappointed District Business Manager John Brazeal and Board President Mike McNeil to serve on a new Shrewsbury Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission that will take up the matter of redeveloping the old Kenrick Plaza.

Brazeal and McNeil were members of the first board, which was convened without having taken any action in 2011. Brazeal explained that due to state laws that govern the formation of advisory commissions, the previous commission was nullified because according to the 2010 census, St. Louis County’s population had fallen below one million. The appointments will be made official Nov. 5 after other school districts in St. Louis County are given an opportunity to comment.

Published on October 19, 2012 in the South County Times.

Article by Joe Leicht

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