It is well known by now that Warren County Public Schools has one of the largest and most diverse populations of English-learner students in the state: Up to 25 percent of its students have participated in its English education programs at some point.
What’s less well understood is that WCPS also has the largest Migrant Education Program in the state, with at least 423 students receiving separate support because of their parents’ status as seasonal migratory workers.
For many migrant families, just five WCPS employees are responsible for acting as the local welcome wagon. Migrant Education Program employees act as liaisons between schools and families. They monitor students’ grades and attendance, help make doctors’ appointments for families and arrange for after-school tutoring and donations of books and school supplies, among many other support services.
“They kind of acclimate them with the community,” said Dee Anna Crump, director of English learner and federal programs at WCPS.
“It’s not just about the kids. It’s also about the family,” Crump said in summing up the program’s mission to ensure that each student’s home has the resources it needs to support his or her success in the classroom.
The supplemental education program serves migrants between the ages of 3 and 21, and participants don’t necessarily have to be English learners to qualify, Crump said. Typically, participants receive support through the program for about 36 months, but that can be extended depending on exactly how a migrant student’s family moves around for work.
Crump offered a broader look at the state of the district’s English learner programs during a school board meeting last month. There are at least 2,539 students currently receiving English-learner services.
Take into account the number of students currently being monitored as they work to shed that EL label, and the number jumps even higher.
“The big thing is that our numbers are increasing” across the board, Crump said.
Crump said the steady increase isn’t solely because of activities by Bowling Green’s refugee resettlement agency, the International Center of Kentucky.
About 1,200 students in the district could be classified as refugees, a specific designation reserved for those displaced from their homelands by war and persecution. Another 965 students are immigrants, according to district data.
As many as 89 languages are represented among the district’s families, district data show.
“We’re facing the challenges and doing the best that we can with the limited resources that we have,” Crump said, noting that difficulty in finding enough qualified EL teachers and enough funding pose challenges in educating EL students.
Elisa Beth Brown, director of instructional programs for the Bowling Green Independent School District, said her district faces similar challenges.
“The state doesn’t give us an adequate amount to cover those students,” she said, adding the sheer amount of diversity among the district’s English-learner students, both in terms of different languages spoken and educational backgrounds, is also a challenge. About 700 students are currently receiving such services from the district.
“We know that one-size-fits-all will not work,” Brown said.
To tackle the issue, Brown said BGISD will be working with a consultant starting next month to explore ways it can move forward.
In the meantime, Warren County Public Schools is also leaning into its own challenge, Crump said.
“We’re embracing the challenge and providing the best education possible for all students in Warren County Public Schools,” she said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.