KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — School districts across East Tennessee are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Two counties in our region have seen significant growth in the Hispanic and Latino student populations.
Hamblen County Schools is one of those school systems. The district has seen growth in its Hispanic student population throughout the years in their schools.
“The Hispanic demographic is a large part of our community and a very valued part of our community,” Arnold Bunch, superintendent, said. “The number of students that are enrolled has continued to go up. This year 32.4 percent of our students are Hispanic or Latino, that’s a 1.1 percent growth over what it was last year.”
Hamblen County Schools has a prominent Hispanic community within its school system. The district has staffed 46 English Second Language teachers.
“We added nine in the district last year and we were able to fill all of those positions,” Bunch said. “We actually have had an increase, a pretty significant increase to try and improve our educational outcomes with those students.”
According to Bunch, the district has also partnered with Carson-Newman University, so teachers have the ability to earn a certificate that allows them to teach in Spanish.
“Dual certification to be able to be able to learn enough Spanish to be able to teach in their educational background, so that they can teach math in Spanish and reach those students better,” Bunch said.
Knox County Schools also seeing an increase in their enrollment amongst Hispanic students. At the start of the Hispanic Heritage Month, KCS en Español shared on its social media page that families in KCS speak more than 120 languages and dialects; with more than 5,000 of these families speaking Spanish and more than 300 families speaking Mayan languages.
“We do a home language survey every year and about 8,000 families have indicated that they speak a language other than English at home and out of those about 5,300 have indicated that Spanish is that language,” Patricia Robledo, ELL Family Liason with Knox County Schools, said.
KCS also has an English Language Learners program better known as the ELL program.
“We have an ELL program, an English language learning program,” Robledo said. “We have the Welcome Center as well where international families are welcome to come and enroll their children at school there and access interpreters of different languages.”