Two new public high schools devoted to the specific needs of English language learners could open in Prince George’s County in the 2015-2016 school year.
Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell received approval for a partnership with Hyattsville-based nonprofit Hispanic advocacy group Casa of Maryland and another nonprofit, Internationals Network for Public Schools.
“There’s a real need for this type of program,” said Eliza Leighton, director of Casa of Maryland’s Langley Park Promise Neighborhood program. “We have students coming from other countries that have limited language abilities. Many of them require special supports and many also have significant financial burdens.”
The New York-based Internationals Network for Public Schools designs high school programs for English language learner, or ELL, students.
PGCPS and Internationals Network for Public Schools are applying for a $3 million grant from the Carnegie Corp. in New York to cover start-up costs for two new high schools in the county for ELL students, beginning in the 2015-2016 school year, Maxwell said.
The two schools would each start with 100 ninth-grade students, according to school system documents.
One school would focus specifically on ELL students new to the district who have been in the United States for four years or less, according to the documents. The other school would be aimed at the general population of ELL students.
Additional details, including the location of the schools and ongoing costs for school operations, have not yet been determined, Maxwell said.
“We haven’t worked out yet whether they will be freestanding individual schools or co-located in schools where we have some extra space,” said Maxwell, adding that county, commercial and nonprofit space may also be considered.
Maxwell said a decision from the Carnegie Corp. is expected in June, but if the grant is not approved, other options would be considered for the future.
Marissa Gonzalez, PGCPS diversity officer, said the new schools would be a huge benefit to the district’s ELL students.
“This would provide supports focused on their particular needs,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to be a full-service model in order to provide for all of the needs of these students.”
According to school system statistics, 18,234 of the school system’s 125,136 students have limited English proficiency.
“A lot of these students come from very challenging backgrounds and have very little formal education, so there is a very pressing need for new models to serve this population,” Gonzalez said.
Leighton said the new schools would be of benefit by being able to provide services specifically tailored to and recognizing the needs of ELL students and their families.
“Many of the students are coming from families with very little to no experience with the American education system,” said Leighton.