Chesterfield teachers, students work overtime to help growing Hispanic population learn English

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Many of the classrooms at Chalkley Elementary School were empty over the summer. But Ms. Rhonda Hawkes’ classroom was filled with children like Paola Gonzales. She arrived from Venezuela with her family about a year ago.

Ms. Rhonda Hawkes/ESL Teacher

"This helps them to continue making progress in their English," Ms. Hawkes said. "And we focus on math and language arts, so they are still talking and reading and writing and listening."

Chesterfield is an English-only county in an English-only state when it comes to public education.

At Chalkley there are about 900 students. About a third of those students are enrolled in English as a Second Language classes.

Division wide, Chesterfield Schools are about 15 percent Hispanic. That's an increase of five percent since 2010.

Paola's mom sees the progress her daughter is making in such a short time at Chalkley.

"She hopes that for this next year she'll have more success and continue to learn English, so she can be part of not only the community at Chalkley, but also the community in which she lives," her mom said.

“She's doing amazing!," Ms. Hawkes added. "She is doing so well. She was on a level 1, which means you don't know any English. Now she's a level 3, which means she grew two years in one year."

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