WICHITA, Kan. – Nearly 20 percent of Wichita Public Schools’ roughly 50,000 students speak a language other than English at home – a total of 109 different languages from 94 different countries.
KMUW reports students enrolled in the district’s English for Speakers of Other Languages program has increased by almost 4,400 students in the last 12 years, bringing the total to nearly 10,000 students learning English in the Wichita Public School District.
“While Wichita has always been a diverse district, there have been some significant shifts in the language groups, countries of origin, and previous educational backgrounds of new students over the last decade,” Ken Jantz, head of Multilingual Education Services, told board members at a meeting Monday.
An increasing number of students have come from Central America, Africa the Middle East and Asia, Jantz said, with more students speaking Arabic and Swahili at home.
Current students hail from 94 different countries, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Honduras, KMUW reports.
Multilingual Education Services worker Stephanie Bird-Hutchison said the district operates English language learner programs in 33 elementary schools, a dozen middle schools and five high schools.
The district also helped about 280 adults learn English at locations around the city this year, she said.
“Those parents are probably representing around 600 children in our schools whose parents are continuing their education and becoming more literate and comfortable with English,” Bird-Hutchison said.
Multilingual Education Services currently operates a Newcomer Intake Center to place foreign language students, and a special Migrant Education Program for “students who have moved across school district boundaries in the past 3 years in order to get work related to agriculture or meat processing,” according to the district website.
A Wichita Family Learning Program provides the free adult classes “specifically for parents and adult family members of students in ESOL or Title I programs.
“Childcare is provided for all classes, and Kid’s Club Homework and Tutoring assistance is provided for students whose parents are participating in evening classes,” according to the website.
District employees also staff a “language line” for both Spanish and Vietnamese families who need assistance, as well as “on-site interpretation for parents, students and school personnel.”