AP NEWS

Fort Worth revamps language services, citing refugee decline

April 16, 2019

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Fort Worth school officials are retooling the English as a Second Language program they offer refugee students from non-Spanish-speaking countries because fewer such refugees are being sent to Tarrant County.

The refugee students mostly flee war, religious prejudice or persecution in their native countries. The county’s refugee learners arrived from countries that include Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

For the past 25 years, the school district has provided English as a Second Language Services through a language center plan that sends students to central locations.

The district’s ESL officials said that plans are underway to eliminate seven language facilities for elementary students that serve refugees and newcomers, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

“It’s the refugee population and the refugee population has dwindled recently,” said Karen Neal, interim director for ESL in the Fort Worth school district.

In early April, 161 elementary students were being taught at language centers, but the number is projected to fall to 53 next by school year. ESL teachers will support campuses with large concentrations of English learners, according to the district.

Plans are also in the works to close language centers at middle schools by the 2020-21 school year. The middle school language centers help students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. In April, the district had 298 students in the middle school program. Next year, 25 teachers are expected to serve 84 students at seven sites.

“These numbers roll up hill,” Neal said. “Because my numbers are dwindling at elementary, there aren’t children to feed into middle school language centers. That also impacts my middle schools. If we serve third, fourth and fifth, if they come in as fifth-graders, they still have time in the system — we just aren’t getting that many kids anymore.”

The district asserted the ESL instructors will not lose their job under the plan.

Russell Smith, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, said that his agency has been resettling fewer refugees. Smith’s agency is the largest one of three serving Tarrant County.

In 2016, the agency helped resettle 581 refugees in Fort Worth. They resettled 150 last year.

Smith noted those figures are likely to continue going down.

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Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com