By Charlie Breitrose
One in ten students in the Watertown Public Schools are in English as a Second Language classes, but more than half are not getting the ESL (now known as English Language Learner) instruction that is required by state law.The students are in all five Watertown schools, and they come in speaking one of 27 different languages, said ESL Program Director Allison Levit said during a School Committee Budget and Finance Subcommittee meeting. Students who know the least amount of English are supposed to get 150 minutes a day of ESL instruction. That amount drops to 60-120 minutes for mid-level students and 30 minutes for those close to moving into a regular classroom full time, Levit said.
A couple years ago Watertown Middle School received an award for its ESL program, but now the system is struggling. Levit, who is in her second year as director, asked for more staff last year, and did not receive any more instructors. The same thing happened with her predecessor.
The biggest problem is at the elementary schools.
“The elementary level has a staffing crisis,” Levit said.
Typically elementary school students are pulled out of their classes for 40 minutes a day, Levit said. While there are needs at the middle and high schools, Levit said she would focus resources at the elementary level. She would like to add 1.5 teachers at Hosmer School, a .5 position at Cunniff School and increase the amount of instruction at the district’s preschool.