Photo Courtesy Of Elaine Smith
According to a local reddit user, Montgomery County has 32,000 European immigrants, 124,000 Asian immigrants, and 54,000 African immigrants, the 4th highest of any county in the United States. Needless to say, we live in a diverse region full of different cultures, peoples, and thus, languages.
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is MCPS’s program to integrate non-english speakers into schools. While ESOL may not be visible to most students, it helps many each year.
“We have some students who have never spoken English before, and we have some students who have been speaking English and living in the United States, but maybe they speak a different language at home and need that language development at school,” Vice Principal Marie Gasaway said. “The ESOL program is helping students acquire the english language.”
However, WCHS did not offer an ESOL program until the 2019-2020 school year. For students who were enrolled in the program at CJMSand HHMS, this lead to a difficult choice: to leave their friends, or to renounce their accommodations.
“We didn’t allow ESOL students to come here unless they refused the services, or they could go to the ESOL program at Whitman,” Gasaway said. “I thought that we should start a program because I knew that we had students at Churchill last year who were ESOL students but refused their services in order to be here, so they were not getting english language education or accommodations,”
There has been a drastic shift in the ESOL population since the WCHS administration began to send students away many years ago. At that time, the amount of students who needed the program was very small. However, it now reaches 25 students enrolled at WCHS alone.
According to MCPS regulations, a school can hire a part-time teacher for every 20 new students. However, WCHS already had an ace up its sleeve.
“We have Ms. Lizzie Rogers, who is our World Languages resource teacher. Part of her staffing allocation is to support ESOL students because it was such a small amount of students,” Gasaway said.
In order to make this an easy transition for ESOL students currently enrolled at WWHS, they were given the option to either return to WCHS as their homeschool or to stay at WWHS. Middle school siblings of WWHS ESOL students could follow their siblings.
This drastic change is sure to help students from all walks of life in the WCHS community feel more at home amongst their peers.
“The old policies hurt my heart, because having parents who speak different languages, thinking about if they had to go to a different school from their friends, just to receive language services, didn’t seem very fair to me,” Gasaway said.