LEWISTON — The number of immigrant students learning to speak English and who are behind their peers academically has grown this year at the Montello Elementary School.
That prompted the Lewiston School Committee on Monday to approve hiring a sixth English language learner teacher at Montello and one English language learner ed tech.
Regular classes at McMahon, Martel and Farwell schools are growing and have created the need to hire three ed techs for each school, as recommended by Superintendent Leon Levesque.
In asking for more help to teach immigrant students, mostly Somalis, Levesque said Lewiston has "a number of new ELL students who have arrived at Montello who are at a level one, who need more intensive instructional assistance.”
A “level one” English language learner student means the student is two or more years below their English-proficient peers, explained director Sue Martin. To help those students improve, they need to be taught in groups of eight per English language learner teacher, she said.
“We're in a situation at Montello where every one of our ELL classes is full, and some students are still not being served,” Martin said, asking for the additional teacher.
School Committee member Sonia Taylor asked where students came from.
Martin said the students were unexpected and “new to the district.”
At Montello there are more English language learner students needing help compared to other elementary schools. At Montello there's a total of 258 English language learner students, with 119 of them at level one.
In other schools, Farwell has 20 English language learner students with three at level one; Geiger, 109 English language learner with 30 at level one; Martel, 15 English language learner students with three at level one; McMahon 82 English language learner students with 27 at level one. Longley has 177 English language learner students, but the number of level one students is not yet complete.
Overall, Lewiston's total English language learner elementary population is 661, up from 622 one year ago. The percentage of immigrant students at Montello is more than 20 percent.
When asked why so many English language learner students attend Montello, Levesque said students typically go to school in the neighborhood where they live. “That's where they live." The students “are new kids to us, new arrivals,” he said.
When asked if there's a concern about the quality of education for all Montello students, considering the number of students two years or more behind, Levesque said that's why more staff is being hired.