The Wichita Public School District has close to 10,000 students in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, with more than 109 unique languages represented in the district. More than 19 percent of the total student population in Wichita speaks a language other than English at home.
Other than the U.S., the largest numbers of students have come from Mexico, Vietnam, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Honduras. In total, students in the district represent 94 different countries.
At a school board meeting Monday night, Ken Jantz with the district's Multilingual Education Services program said the ESOL population has increased almost 4,400 students over the past twelve years.
"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," Jantz said.
The number of students coming into the district from Central America and Africa has gone up significantly since 2014. There has also been a large increase recently in students who speak Arabic and Swahili at home, as more families come from to Wichita from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
According to Stephanie Bird-Hutchison, also with Multilingual Education Services, Wichita Public Schools currently has ESOL programs in 50 schools. That includes 33 elementary schools, 12 middle schools and five high schools.
Additionally, the district offers adult ESOL programs for parents of students. Bird-Hutchison says the programs, which are held at various locations throughout Wichita, have served about 280 adult learners this year.
"Those parents are probably representing around 600 children in our schools whose parents are continuing their education and becoming more literate and comfortable in English," she said.
The 10 largest language groups are English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Lao, Swahili, Cambodian, the Chinese family of languages, Bengali and French.
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