Schools struggling to accommodate Hispanic growth

by: Michelle Linn Updated:


Tulsa, Okla. - Nearly 1/3 of all students in Tulsa Public Schools are Hispanic, and speak Spanish at home.

District leaders, like Laura Grisso, the Title 3 Director for TPS, tell FOX23 a lot of the growth is happening at schools like Skelly Elementary, in east Tulsa.

"Our Hispanic population, as of last year, is the largest racial and ethnic population across the district. So a lot of those families need that support in Spanish and we haven’t been able to find as much staff as we need. We’ve got a lot, but we need more," said Grisso.

When we visited the TPS Enrollment Center on Monday, FOX23 found many parents there did not speak English.

TPS posts signs in Spanish, and offers interpreters and translators.

"It’s been critical, and we have even brought in, besides the staff we have, we’ve brought in local contractors to bring more support, because that’s where we’re seeing the largest number of enrollment is within our Spanish speaking and Hispanic populations," said Grisso.

At the enrollment center Friday, we found three different families, where the mother did not speak English and brought an older child along to translate.

"A lot of times that teenager is missing school to be here, which is unacceptable.  They're missing a day of instruction, which we know is very important, and another day they could be spending in the classroom, learning those skills in English," said Bradley Eddy, TPS Director of Certified Talent.

"Even though we have a good number of Hispanic people in our area, we don’t have a good number of those who really sought the teaching profession or have really completed the college necessary to become that teacher," said Eddy.

With more than 10,000 students learning English in the classroom and speaking Spanish at home, TPS leaders say they need more bilingual staff.

This year, a student who learned Spanish through the Immersion Program at Eisenhower International School, is back at the school as a teacher.

TPS leaders consider that a bilingual recruitment success.

TPS won't have exact enrollment numbers for a few more weeks, but as FOX23 reported, enrollment appears to be up this year, with more than 2,000 students than projected.