Through Orange County Public Schools’ ESOL program, students whose native language isn’t English are given the resources and opportunities to help them learn.
But for their parents — many of whom might not speak English at all — resources aren’t always as plentiful.
ESOL is the name Florida has given to its program for teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages, according to OCPS. The district’s ESOL program provides students with access to grade-level curriculum and all school services. All teachers are qualified to teach ESOL.
And while students enrolled in OCPS schools can reap the benefits of ESOL, there often can be a divide when it comes to their home lives. Parents who aren’t proficient in English might have trouble supporting their children with homework or attending parent/teacher conferences and school functions.
This is where OCPS’ Title III ESOL Parents Tutoring Program comes in. The Multilingual Services Department now is offering English classes for parents of English Language Learners (ELLs) after school at Horizon West Middle School. Classes will take place Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
“Dr. Arlene Peters, Multilingual Services director, reached out to the principal since OCPS did not have any schools in the West Learning Community offering the program, plus HWMS has a high number of ELL students,” said Renée Burke, OCPS manager of media promotions.
Burke added that 13 other OCPS schools, including Chain of Lakes Middle School, also are offering ESOL classes for parents of ELLs.
“We looked at historic data of schools that have offered the program last year,” she said. “If they showed at least a 51% retention and at least 60% of parents improved their English language proficiency, they were invited to continue.”
Chad Ryan, the ESOL compliance specialist at Horizon West Middle, said that, after meeting with parents, many felt that the need to offer adult ESOL classes was great.
“We held our first Multilingual Parent Learning Counsel meeting on Sept. 26 and the feedback from parents on such topic was definitely one for the need of the class,” Ryan said. “Many schools in OCPS offer an adult ESOL course. We felt the need to offer it for our HWMS community as well. It has been overwhelmingly received.”
That overwhelming reception was so great, in fact, that the class already is at capacity for this school year and there are “many, many others” on a waiting list should spots open up.
“I have basically helped get it off the ground by working with district personnel to get it set up and running,” Ryan said. “We have two staff members here at HWMS that will serve (as) coordinator and teacher ... The parents are really interested in the course simply because they want to learn and understand English better and also be able to help their children.”
According to OCPS, the Title III grant focuses on supplementary instructional support for ELLs. However, the Title III grant doesn’t just help OCPS students. The ESOL classes for parents at Horizon West Middle are funded by the same Title III federal grant and are free for ELL parents. Additionally, the Multilingual Services Department will provide free Rosetta Stone licenses.
OCPS already offers adult ESOL classes for those 16 and older with limited English proficiency at Orange Technical College. In fact, some of these classes take place at other West Orange-area schools, including Bridgewater Middle and Westpointe Elementary.
“The need for this type of adult class is apparent, as we have families moving to Orange County from Brazil, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, just to name a few places,” Ryan said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the progress the adults in the class are going to make.”