KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A program to help students who can't speak English is being kicked into high gear in Kansas schools, after a new study shows a huge increase in enrollment of bilingual students.
"The kids need to feel confident in what they are doing. Other then feeling like they don't understand," Cielo Fernandez said.
Fernandez knows that feeling of isolation.
She moved to the metro from Mexico years ago. At the time, her family didn't speak much English so she made the decision to put her daughter in the ESL program at school.
"We arrived in October, she didn't know any English. By December, not only could she have conversations with her classmates and teachers. But she was the first one to start reading in English," she said.
Fernandez now works at El Centro, helping immigrant families get their bearings.
Every day, she witnesses kids with much promise fall through the cracks of education, because of a language barrier.
"They don't know how to interact or what to say," she said.
And the amount of those children in the Kansas school district are multiplying. A new study found the amount of children in ESL went from 2,400 in 2009 to more than 3,200 last year, something the Shawnee Mission School District says it's working to accommodate.
"This is during a time when there are limited fiscal resources across the state of Kansas," Chief Academic Officer for the Shawnee Mission School District Ed Streich said.
Last school year, the district spent more than $2.9 million on the ESL program.
With limited funding and rising numbers of students, the district is looking into ways to bring the ESL program inside the classroom with other students, instead of isolating them and looking to hire teachers who have the ESL training.
"Those teachers are really not only the connectors of the kid for the education, but the connectors of the kids with the system, with the environment with the school," Fernandez said.