Schools try to meet SOL demands

Locally, schools and groups that offer adult English as a Second Language classes are scrambling to meet an increasing demand.

Professors at the Northern Virginia Community College Manassas and Woodbridge campuses said they’re adding new sections of ESL courses every semester.

NVCC offers for-credit ESL courses for students preparing to take college courses and continuing education courses for adults who need more help and are not ready for the for-credit courses, said Bill Woodard, an assistant professor of ESL at the Manassas Campus.

“The continuing education courses are for students who don’t test into the credit program and who want to learn English for their job or for personal reasons,” he said.

The demand for both programs is growing every year, he said.

“The continuing education program is just growing in leaps and bounds,” he said.



The story is the same at NVCC’s Woodbridge campus.

“The demand has increased particularly in Prince William County over the past year because of changing demographics,” said Nasim Khawaja, an assistant professor of ESL at the Woodbridge campus.

“Our numbers have been increasing and we’re offering more courses each semester,” said Karalyn Schneider-Diaz, coordinator of the ESL program at the Woodbridge campus. “Our diversity is also increasing. We’re seeing a lot of Hispanic students, but the shift is swinging and we’re seeing more students from Asian countries and even moreso from African countries.”

Khawaja said his students hail from all over Latin America, as well as from Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan and India.

Prince William County Public Schools’ Adult Education department offers 41 ESL classes at 10 sites throughout the county, said Debby Cargill, the coordinator of the department’s English for Speakers of Other Languages program.

“Every year we’re seeing an increase in interest. Enrollment’s tripled since I started with the program 10 years ago,” she said. “Most of our classes are full, especially in the beginning levels.”

The adult education program also offers specialty classes, including a class on citizenship, Cargill said.

Many churches and other community groups also offer ESL courses.

BEACON, a non-profit, secular group operated by the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, offers classes at 11 sites in the area, including Georgetown South, Birmingham Green and Baldwin Elementary School in Manassas and Costello Park in Manassas Park.

Last year they enrolled 465 students in their ESL courses, executive director Sonya Jacob said.

“We have a lot of people who have had education in their native countries and just need to learn English. We also have a fairly large group of people who had a low-level of education from their home country and who are basically illiterate and need more help,” Jacob said.

“A lot of people come to learn English when their children are entering school. They need to be able to talk to the teachers. There are translators and things like that, but adults like to be able to handle things themselves and so they want to learn English,” she said. “I’m always amazed at the dedication of our students. They’re really challenging the stereotypes people have of laziness and things like that.”

Jacob said there are many options for people in the area who want to learn English, but not enough to deal with all of the demand.

“Are there options around here? Yes, there are, but nowhere near what we need,” Jacob said.

For more information

• PWC Adult Education Department, (703) 791-7357

• NVCC Woodbridge campus, (703) 878-5770

• NVCC Manassas campus, (703) 257-6530

• BEACON English (703) 368.7491; Spanish (703) 331.5513

• Literacy Volunteers of America, (703) 670-5702