Planned English learner schools in Prince George’s get $3M boost -- Gazette.Net


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The Prince George’s County school system has been awarded a $3 million grant for the creation of two English Language Learner, or ELL, high schools in Langley Park and one other county location that has yet to be determined.

Prince George’s County Public Schools, along with its grant partners Casa of Maryland, an immigrant advocacy organization based in Langley Park, and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, a New York-based education nonprofit serving immigrant students, announced the grant Tuesday during a news conference in Langley Park.

Lidia Orellana Rivas of Langley Park, parent of a child in elementary school, said after the announcement that she welcomed the addition of an ELL high school to her community.

“As a mom, I am very happy that we are going to have this new school in our community,” Rivas said through a Casa of Maryland translator. “It will allow teachers and students to have more involvement in the community.”

Casa of Maryland will provide wraparound services and programs to the new schools, according to Tehani Collazo, Casa’s senior director of schools and community engagement.

The grant came from the Carnegie Corp. of New York, which provides grants to promote equity, education and citizenship programs, according to its website.

One of the schools will be located in Langley Park, but the specific site has not yet been determined, said schools CEO Kevin Maxwell. The school will aim to serve the immigrant community of Langley Park, he said. The second school will be located within an existing, school elsewhere in the county, but the site has not yet been selected.

Maxwell said the start-up and ongoing costs for the two schools has yet to be determined, and will depend in part on the facilities chosen.

The schools would open at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, Maxwell said.

“We’re in the start of our planning year, and so all of those questions are not resolved yet,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said the schools are not intended to segregate immigrant students but to provide an additional option for parents, allowing for targeted services for their specific needs. Students would need to apply to the schools, which will accept 100 freshmen per year once they open.

“It’s just one of a number of school choice options available for our children,” Maxwell said.

Claire Sylvan, executive director of the Internationals Network, said the number of ELL students in Prince George’s has more than doubled in the past decade.

“For us, who have also worked with other school districts facing new immigrant populations, or existing English Language Learner populations, this is a huge opportunity to learn from the districts, from our partners ... and to develop a collaborative vision with the community, with the school district, to serve students,” Sylvan said.

Approximately 12 percent of county students receive ELL services. In the 2012-13 school year, the four-year graduation rate for ELL students was 63 percent, whereas the overall four-year graduation rate for all county students was 74.1 percent, according to information from the Maryland State Department of Education.

“We need to do better for our young people,” Collazo said. “There is a critical need for new models in educating Langley Park students and ELL learners throughout the county.”

Maxwell said schools will be run by PGCPS in collaboration with the Internationals Network, which has provided assistance in the creation of international high schools serving immigrant students in New York and California.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net