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6216: schools brace for haitian students influx (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

>Sunday, October 29, 2000
>Edition: FINAL
>Page: 1A
>Memo: Did not run Early.
>Info box at end of text.
>By Shannon Colavecchio
>Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
>Forty just-emigrated Haitians enrolled at Atlantic and Lake Worth high
>schools within a two-week period this month, leaving school officials with
>nearly enough new students to fill two classrooms.
>Like many Caribbean immigrants coming into the district's classrooms, some 
>the students had no previous schooling and were illiterate even in their
>native Creole. Almost all spoke no English and knew little or nothing about
>the American public education system.
>Welcome to the future of public education in Palm Beach County.
>An estimated 1,000 to 5,000 new Haitian students are expected to flood 
>schools within the next 12 to 18 months, when the effects of a new, more
>liberal immigration law take hold. Those new students would join about 
>Haitian students already here - 4,812 of them born in Haiti, and almost all
>of them counting Haitian Creole as their native tongue.
>This won't be the first large-scale influx of immigrants into Palm Beach
>County schools, but interim Superintendent Ben Marlin and other district
>leaders concede they hadn't planned for so many coming so fast.
>"I don't think any of us realized this was going to impact us now, and 
>planning for the unknown, which makes it that much harder," Marlin said.
>"Maybe we won't see 4,000 or 5,000, but even 1,000 is a lot if you have
>unschooled children. Somebody - the federal government or the state - has 
>to step in. Many of these kids come to us cold, and that's frightening for 
>school system. You can't put these kids with no language skills, no 
>experience, no literacy, and expect us to just teach them. "
>The Haitian Relief Immigration Fairness Act, passed in 1998, allows up to
>50,000 refugees living in the United States continuously since Dec. 31, 
>- and with no U.S. criminal record - to apply for permanent residency.
>The law also allows the refugees' spouses, children or unmarried sons and
>daughters older than age 21 to seek residency.
>So far, about 36,000 residency applications have been processed nationwide
>under the 1998 law, said Rodney Germain, spokesman for the Immigration and
>Naturalization Service. About 70 percent of those applicants plan to live 
>Those numbers don't include dependents' applications, and Germain said his
>agency could get three to four dependent applications for every refugee.
>"We're talking about maybe 100,000 people altogether in Florida from this
>law," he said, adding that most of them probably will live in Miami-Dade,
>Broward and Palm Beach counties, a pattern followed in previous 
>Meanwhile, Congress is considering the Central American and Haitian Parity
>Act, an amendment to a 1997 immigration law that would allow Haitians 
>here continuously since Dec. 1,1995, to seek permanent residency.
>In Palm Beach County - where schools already are crowded and the number of
>students in special classes for those who can't speak English has grown by
>more than 15,000 in the past decade - the resulting wave of immigrant
>children would tax teachers, strain school capacities and stretch district
>resources, Marlin said.
>"We planned on cutting 300 portables by next year," he said. "If we get 
>1,000 students and it's 30 students to a portable - well, forget it."
>Early this month, Palm Beach Gardens High School's newest ESOL (English for
>Speakers of Other Languages) teacher discovered when she arrived that she 
>no classroom space, said Ann Castillo, the school's ESOL coordinator.
>"If we got all these new students, I don't know where we'd put them,"
>Castillo said. "On the roof, maybe?"
>The district last year launched a five-year, $1.2 billion construction plan
>to build 23 new schools and renovate old ones. But Area 1 Superintendent
>Carole Shetler said the schedule may have to be changed, depending on how
>many new immigrants enter the district and where they live.
>To teach the new students, the district would need more translators, and
>teachers trained in ESOL instruction would have to be hired or trained from
>within, Shetler said.
>The district, with about 10,000 teachers, employs 630 ESOL teachers and 435
>ESOL aides. The district has 304 translators, or "language facilitators."
>When 15 or more students at a school speak the same language, state law
>requires the district to provide a translator for that language.
>This year, the district has earmarked $54.3 million for ESOL programs, 
>manager Mike Burke said. That's 5.8 percent of the district's $943.9 
>operating budget. For every ESOL student, the district receives $4,320 from
>the state, compared with $3,600 for every mainstream student.
>"That's more than enough to cover the resources we need," said Steve Byrne, 
>program planner in the multicultural education department. "We're attuned 
>accustomed to student growth, and so we're able to deal with it."
>Marlin isn't so sure, in particular because he wants the district to 
>establishing "cultural awareness" centers for students - Haitian or other -
>who've just come into the United States.
>"You take a child from Haiti and send them to a big school like Boca High?
>Come on!" said , Daniella Henry coordinator of the Haitian American 
>Council in Delray Beach. "It's a total shock for the students. You have to
>prepare them for that, get them ready, before sending them into schools."
>The district's Haitian immigrant numbers jumped dramatically 10 to 12 years
>ago, and soon after, parents and immigration advocates criticized the
>district for poorly serving those students. At the time, the district had
>virtually no teachers or aides who spoke Haitian creole, and Boca Raton 
>School had the only ESOL program in southern Palm Beach County, home of 
>of the largest Haitian and Caribbean populations.
>A group of Florida advocacy organizations in 1991 threatened to sue, saying
>immigrants weren't getting the education they deserved. The state 
>of Education settled out of court, agreeing to improve help for those with
>limited English.
>During the years since, the district has hired translators for immigrant
>students and their families, trained teachers to be more sensitive to
>cultural differences and fine-tuned its ESOL curriculum. During the past
>three years, the district has hired about 56 Haitian teachers, said 
>personnel specialist Nuncia Lowery.
>Dean Stecker, a planner in the ESOL department, compared the state test
>scores of students once enrolled in ESOL classes with students never 
>in ESOL. The bilingual students who'd been out of the ESOL program for two
>years or more scored about the same as native speakers, Stecker found.
>Teaching students from Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean is especially
>challenging because, unlike European immigrants, they more often cannot 
>or write in their native tongue. Haitian Creole is traditionally a spoken
>language, not a written one. About 45 percent of Haiti's population is
>literate, versus more than 90 percent in the United States.
>Sunday-Joseph Otengho, a program planner in the multicultural affairs
>department, is developing courses, to be used districtwide by fall 2003, 
>reflect the growing ranks of Haitians and Haitian-Americans. In June,
>Otengho's department tested the curriculum among teachers, who learned to
>incorporate into their mainstream lessons the history and culture and
>contributions of Haiti.
>Already, the district offers the history of Haiti and the contribution of
>Haiti to American society, Byrne said.
>Carver Middle School last year put its student handbook and school rules on
>books-on-tape in Haitian Creole, another reflection of the growing Haitian
>"We're dancing as fast as we can," Stecker said. "The influx will be felt,
>and we will deal with the students' needs. We have no choice."

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