WAYNE — The number of local students declaring home languages other than English is growing at a pace that will likely require the Board of Education to invest in more teachers for next school year, said the superintendent.
And the range of those languages is more varied than in the past.
There are nine students, for example, whose first language is Albanian, and 15 whose mother tongue is Chinese. Other pupils speak Gujarati, Hindi and Telugu, languages native to India.
School officials have counted 26 different home languages in all, with Arabic, Spanish and Turkish topping the list of those most spoken by students who qualify as English language learners.
“This is going to have budgetary implications,” said Mark Toback, the schools superintendent.
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There are 219 students in the K-12 district who are enrolled in ELL education, an increase of 50 students from last year. Most of them, 63%, were not born in the U.S., Toback said.
The latest statistics were presented to trustees in a routine report on enrollment trends. New Jersey districts tally the numbers each year and send them as part of applications to the state Department of Education, which needs them to help determine how much financial aid school systems are entitled to receive.
The figures also show that 627 students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, a gauge often used to understand disparities in income.
Due to the increase in ELL students, Toback said, trustees may have to budget for two more teachers.
Trustees hired two additional teachers for ELL before the 2020 school year, and Toback said there are currently 12 teachers in the program.
Story continues below table.
|Location||Number of ELL students|
|John F. Kennedy School||46 (+ three from last school year)|
|Wayne Hills High School||44 (+ 12)|
|Ryerson School||40 (+ eight)|
|Pines Lake School||32 (- nine)|
|A.P. Terhune School||31 (+ eight)|
The district’s overall enrollment of 7,619 students is higher than it was last year by 124 students, Toback said.
But it is much too early to tell, according to the superintendent, whether the greater number is a pandemic anomaly or the start of a pattern. “It may or may not be significant,” he said.
A demographer commissioned by the school board calculated in December 2021 that the district’s enrollment decreased by 6.5% between the 2016 school year and last year. It would continue to drop, he predicted, through at least the 2026 school year.
Those estimations, however, could not accurately measure the effect of one of the biggest changes that the district has undergone in recent memory: the implementation of full-day kindergarten.
Toback said the demographer is now completing updated projections of the district’s enrollment.
Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Sign-ups for kindergartners and new first-grade students for next school year will take place from Feb. 1 through Feb. 22. For complete instructions, including links to mandatory forms, visit this website.