Riverhead Central School District enrollment has steadily increased over the past 10 years, during which the number of English language learners, or ELL students, has nearly tripled, according to district officials.
An April 16 presentation to the school board by Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez and assistant superintendent Christine Tona, illustrated the growth in enrollment, specifically in the ELL demographic. During the 2009-10 academic year, the district had 4,816 students in grades K-12, including about 503 English language learners. By 2015-16, according to the presentation, total district enrollment had risen to 5,280 students, 21% of whom were ELL.
The New York State Education Department applies the term English language learners to students who are not proficient speakers of English and are developing their English language skills. These students participate in specific English as a second language classes and, as per state requirements, are also integrated into regular classes.
As of this year, district enrollment increased to 5,595 students, with about 27.5% considered ELL.
Based on overall increased enrollment, Ms. Tona told board members, the district included funding for six new high school teachers in this year’s proposed budget. If the budget passes, the district will welcome new teachers in physical education, business, math, science, social studies and Spanish.
“We do have a need,” Ms. Tona said.
Board member Greg Meyer said the enrollment spike is notable on the field, too.
At a wellness committee meeting April 1, Mr. Meyer said Brian Sacks, district director of athletics, health and physical education, anticipates that in three years, Riverhead will be the fifth largest school district in Suffolk County in terms of sports-related programs.
Riverhead is the 14th largest school district based on the most recent data for the current school year. Central Islip is currently the fifth with a high school enrollment of 1,693, according to data from Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County sports. Riverhead’s high school enrollment number is 1,432.
In the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, state education department data shows that enrollment has declined slightly in the last decade and that only 1 percent of students are English language learners.
Enrollment there during the 2015-16 academic year totaled 2,313 students, 14 of whom were ELL. Enrollment fell again in 2016-17, to 2,264 students, and last year, to 2,170, according to state figures.