PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — SAD 1 in Presque Isle has students who speak only Spanish, barring them from learning in the English-speaking school.
The school district is trying to hire an interpreter to help the Spanish-speaking students, who are new to the district this year and qualify for the English Language Learner program, according to the school superintendent.
The Maine Department of Education Lau Plan, based on U.S. Supreme court decisions that guarantee equal learning opportunities, states identification of English learners must be established within 30 days of the beginning of the school year, or within two weeks of such students enrolling at the school already in session. Qualified teaching staff must be provided to meet students’ language learning needs.
The new interpreter will give the Spanish-speaking students access to their education but also help them improve their English-speaking skills to the point where they no longer need an interpreter.
Presque Isle High School Spanish teacher Leilani Mortland is serving as a short-term interpreter to bridge the language barrier between the students and their teachers until someone is hired.
“We happen to have some students that need direct support in English because they don’t speak [it].They speak Spanish only,” said Superintendent Ben Greenlaw. “We are working to meet the needs of those students.”
The district posted the Spanish interpreter and English technician position to opportunitiesaroostook.com on Sept. 12.
Greenlaw declined to specify the number of Spanish-speaking students on Wednesday afternoon. School officials and the parents of the Spanish-speaking students met to figure out how to best meet the kids’ needs Wednesday morning.
Finding an interpreter with a unique skill set to fit the students’ needs is difficult, Greenlaw said. SAD 1 is looking into a specific candidate for the Spanish Interpreter position, but they haven’t moved to hire anyone yet.
Only one school in the SAD 1 system is affected by the lack of a Spanish interpreter, although Greenlaw declined to identify the particular one.
“If there’s a [language] need that needs to be met, we will have to hire someone,” Greenlaw said.
The district’s last special language need involved an American Sign Language interpreter, but Greenlaw couldn’t recall the last time SAD 1 had a Spanish Interpreter.
SAD 1 has supported English Language Learners in the past. This is the first year in the last five or six that the school has had students with limited English language skills requiring services like an interpreter, Greenlaw said.
Last year, four students qualified for the English Language Learner Program, but their needs did not require an interpreter in the MSAD 1 system.