By Adam Swift
Enrollment in Winthrop schools is on the rise, with numbers higher than they were during the Covid-19 pandemic.
One area where the increase is being felt most acutely is with the number of English Language Learner students, according to Superintendent of Schools Lisa Howard.
“Our enrollment is up to 1,967 students,” said Howard. “In my time, this is close to the highest enrollment we’ve had, and definitely much higher than during Covid.”
The break down of the numbers shows 498 students currently enrolled in preK through grade 2 at the Gorman-Fort Banks School, 435 students in grades 3-5 at the Cummings School, 428 students in grades 6-8 at the middle school, and 597 students in grades 9-12 at the high school. There are also 14 Winthrop students receiving out of district special education services.
During Monday night’s School Committee meeting, Howard expanded on the district’s efforts to meet the needs of the district’s growing ELL population.
“As of this week, we have 192 English Language Learners,” said Howard.
Those students require direct teaching during the school day from the district’s ELL teachers for learning how to read, write, and speak English.
“This is an increase of 60 students from the end of last year, so that’s a relatively large jump, the longest we have seen in a long time,” said Howard.
Of those 60 new students who enrolled, Howard said 45 enrolled with no English language at all.
While the number of ELL students has jumped dramatically, Howard said it’s important to note that the number of ELL teachers has not. Winthrop has three ELL teachers at the elementary school level, and one each at the middle school and high school.
“We are struggling a little bit with that, and we are moving students around and grouping students, and in some cases, have to move some class placements so we can take students as a group,” said Howard.
Howard said that moving forward, there may be a request to increase staffing to meet the needs of the ELL students. She said there has been some strain on the teaching staff in terms of how many students they have in the classroom.
While there is a need for more staff to meet the demands, Howard said current school staff and students have done a tremendous job meeting the challenges and using creative techniques to help meet the needs of the ELL students.
“What’s been really cool to watch has been how our own students, who may have been ELL at some point and are now either flex students or just speak another language because they are from bilingual homes, how incredibly amazing they have been with their peers and trying to help out,” said Howard.