The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) reports that 1,117 unaccompanied minors were placed in Montgomery County in 2014. From July 1 to October 31, 2014, our peak enrollment summer months, there was a significant increase in the enrollment of international students, with 2,352 students enrolled compared to 1,886 from 2013, an increase of 466 students. Enrollment in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) was impacted by students coming from Central America, specifically El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. It is important to note that families are not obligated to provide ORR paperwork at the time of enrollment. As a result, MCPS data for unaccompanied minors do not match ORR data. Nevertheless, we continue to enroll significantly higher numbers of students from these three Central American countries. The FY 2016 budget addresses the needs of unaccompanied youth by facilitating enrollment processing and providing the instructional and staff support they need for academic success.
Any student who has not attended a U.S. school during the prior two years must contact the Division of School Counseling, Residency, and International Admissions (SCRIA) to begin the enrollment process. Thus, unaccompanied youth, also known as unaccompanied minors, who were placed with relatives/friends in Montgomery County begin their enrollment process at SCRIA. The enrollment process includes the intake review; an English language proficiency test for students who speak languages other than, or in addition to, English; and a visit to the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) health clinic for a review of immunization records. Health services, if needed, are provided by DHHS. After the enrollment process is completed, families/students go to their assigned schools for final registration. To address the need for additional staff during the summer and January peak enrollment periods, temporary part-time funds were added to the FY 2015 Operating Budget. This increased SCRIA's temporary part-time funding by approximately $30,000 to $73,000. The FY 2016 budget proposal maintains this level of funding.
Enrollment in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program continues to increase, with an official FY 2015 prekindergarten through Grade 12 ESOL enrollment of 21,463 students, an increase of 1,525 students since FY 2014. In FY 2016, a total of 36.5 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) additional ESOL teachers are included to support this record number of ESOL students.
Unaccompanied minors enrolling in our schools most often qualify for ESOL services and have interrupted or limited formal education. ESOL students with interrupted or limited formal education receive additional support through the Multidisciplinary Educational Training and Support (METS) program to address gaps in reading and mathematics. To support the record influx of unaccompanied minors who qualify for METS, 13.6 of the 36.5 FTE ESOL teachers added to the budget are designated as additional METS teachers needed to support unaccompanied youth. An additional 5.0 FTE METS paraeducators also are included in the FY 2016 budget. To address the unique counseling needs of high school METS students, the FY 2016 budget maintains 7.0 FTE itinerant ESOL counselors who are bilingual in English and Spanish.
The counseling needs of elementary and middle school METS students are supported in the FY 2016 budget by maintaining 10.7 FTE ESOL transition counselors. The FY 2016 budget also maintains 3.0 FTE itinerant ESOL counselors who are bilingual in languages other than Spanish to support the counseling needs of ESOL students who do not speak Spanish.
In the FY 2016 budget, a 0.4 FTE ESOL teacher is maintained to support students enrolled in the Students Engaged in Pathways to Achievement (SEPA) program. SEPA is a career readiness program designed for older METS students who will not earn a high school diploma by the end of the school year in which they become 21 years of age. SEPA may be appropriate for unaccompanied minors after they have been enrolled in their assigned school for at least one semester.
Regarding the need for any changes in the existing programs, two project teams (International Student Enrollment and International Student Supports and Resources) currently are working to address the enrollment process and supplemental supports, including mental health services. To ensure that all international students begin school in a timely manner and receive the additional supports they may need, the two teams are developing recommendations for consideration by members of an MCPS and DHHS steering committee. MCPS also is represented on the Montgomery County Children Fleeing Violence Task Force. This group is focused on identifying additional supports needed by families and students from these countries and working in collaboration to provide these supports.