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Advisory council to promote connection, advocate for English learners

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WESTFORD — The district has reached the threshold to create an English Learner Parent Advisory Council, with its debut scheduled for fall.

“We’ve seen incredible growth,” said School Committee Secretary Kathryn Clear during a May 23 meeting. “To date, we have 137 ELL students, which is 54% higher than it was in 2018.”

ELPAC remains in planning stages

The council is required under the Language Opportunity for Our Kids Act, which requires a district to create an ELPAC to host at least 5% or 100 students in an English Language Learning program.

Amy Bailey, an ELL Interventionist at the John A. Crisafulli School and member of the ELPAC Planning Committee clarified that the council is still in its planning stages.

“We have been doing some research. We were able to get feedback from existing ELPACs,” said Bailey.

The council aims to create a space for connection and networking, as well as advocate for the needs of ELL students.

“There’s a lot of possibility with the ELPAC for us to clarify what happens in the English Learner program and what progress looks like,” she said. “When we’re talking about language proficiency, we’re not talking about those basic interpersonal communication skills.”

She continued, “it’s getting all of those academic language skills across all of the content areas combined with the social and instructional language that happens throughout the program.”

Committee plans survey, next steps

Currently, the committee is preparing to host a caregiver survey later this spring. Bailey noted that a flyer will be mailed to families currently enrolled in the ELL program in the coming weeks.

Bailey clarified that the council hopes to include past ELL students and families in its ranks.

“The ELPAC is not just for current families,” she said. “It’s for anyone who’s ever been a part of the English Learner Program in Westford Public Schools.”

Bailey hopes the council can host its first official meeting in October, working to eventually transfer leadership of the group to parents and guardians.

“As a district, it’s our position to support parents, guardians and caregivers until they can get it up and running,” said Bailey. “If there comes a time that families are not able to keep it running, the district must step in.”

“We are still hoping that parents and caregivers would like to join us in planning,” said Bailey.

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Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is a News Reporter covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.