For the tenth year, El Campo ISD doesn’t have enough Spanish-speaking teachers for its English as a Second Language program to meet state requirements, but the department is working hard with who they have, officials say.

“We have to file a waiver (with the Texas Education Agency) every year in El Campo because we do not have enough bilingual teachers or ESL certified teachers,” ECISD Special Populations Coordinator Laura Pustejovsky said at the Oct. 27 ECISD school board meeting.

School districts are expected to have a certain number of ESL and bilingual teachers based on the number of students in the program. ECISD currently has five bilingual teachers; one for Pre-K through second grade, plus one teacher focusing on online learning during the pandemic this year, but the district needs more. ECISD leaders filed this year’s waiver with TEA at the end of October, because of the shortage.

“We really, because of our (student) numbers, should have a bilingual teacher in Pre-K through fifth grade, at least one,” she said.

Two teachers at the high school and two at the middle school would also be ideal, Pustejovsky said.

Finding enough ESL and bilingual teachers has been an issue in school districts across Texas for years. The issue isn’t only that schools lack teachers, but also applicants for the jobs, according to Pustejovsky.

At ECISD, ESL Pre-K and Kindergarten students focus on learning English in their original language. First grade is a transition year from Spanish to English, and by second grade, students are expected to learn mainly in English.

Due to the shortage of teachers, students in the program are expected to take state exams in English by the time they reach third grade.

“The reality is, right now, because we don’t have a bilingual teacher (for) third grade, those kids are going to be expected to take an English STAAR test,” Pustejovsky said.

ECISD has tried to certify teachers already working for the district, but they often give up before completing their certification, Pustejovsky said.

More ESL/Bilingual teachers would allow students a slower transition process out of the program.

“It would be better if (students) had more time in their ... original language,” Pustejovsky said. “Until we have more teachers, and more applicants, that are bilingual certified, it’s a hard task.”

Program leaders reorganized the framework of the program last year, addressing the process of how students finish the ECISD program. This year, 18 students were able to finish the ESL program.

ECISD program leaders think the key to solving the problem could be recruiting people from the El Campo area. The last bilingual teacher ECISD hired was a second grade teacher, local to El Campo, in February.

“I do think that’s probably the best avenue right now, is looking for people here in the community that are interested or can go back and get certified,” Assistant Superintendent Dolores Trevino said at the meeting. “That’s what we’ve been having a little bit of success with.”

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