Local News

Hispanic student population rising in Highlands

SEBRING - Hispanic student enrollment continues to increase in Highlands County, which now has more Hispanic than white elementary students in the greater Lake Placid area and in the northern part of the county. Steady growth in Hispanic enrollment in Highlands County has been evident from district data. From February 2006 to January 2013, Hispanic enrollment increased from 23.2 percent to 31.4 percent of the total enrollment. White enrollment is 46.2 percent and black enrollment is 16.6 percent. The largest percentage of Hispanic enrollment — 33.8 percent — is at the elementary level, where two schools: Avon and Lake Country, have more Hispanic than white students.
About 10 percent of the district's elementary students are classified as "limited" in their English proficiency and are receiving services or are enrolled in a program to meet their instructional needs. Spanish is the primary language of most of the district's English Language Learners. At Avon Elementary, 19 percent of the students are classified as English Language Learners. Principal Pam Burnham said the younger students learn English very quickly, but often their parents aren't fluent in English, which can hinder communication and understanding the needs of the student. Her school has several bilingual teachers and staff members so that is usually not a problem, she said. All notices to parents are printed in English and Spanish. Burnham noted her school has seen a gradual increase over the years in its Hispanic enrollment, so the school has been able to adapt with the change. The majority of the Hispanic parents are very supportive of the school and want their children to do their best, she added. District resource teacher Deborah Wood, who oversees federal programs, including the migrant program, said most but not all of the migrant students are Hispanic. She also pointed out that the majority of Hispanic students are not from a migrant family, according to district data. Over the past three years, the district has had a total of 1,000 migrant students, she said. The district's Jan. 18 enrollment count shows 3,832 Hispanic students out of a total enrollment of 12,204. Following is enrollment data from the Jan 18 count showing which elementary schools have the highest Hispanic enrollment: The Hispanic population trails the white population by less than 20 students at three elementary schools: Lake Placid, Memorial and Park. Looking at the two Lake Placid's two elementary schools: Lake Placid Elementary and Lake Country Elementary, the total Lake Placid area elementary school enrollment is 43.0 percent Hispanic, 40.2 percent white and 12.5 percent black. Between Avon and Park elementary schools, the northern Avon Park area enrollment is 39.1 percent Hispanic, 39.0 percent white and 16.3 percent black. District enrollment data includes categories for Asian, American Indian and multi racial, but the numbers are very small in comparison to white, Hispanic and black enrollment.

mvalero@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5826