LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Florencia Martinez used to stand out, with English being her second language. Now, she's one of Livingston parish school's paraprofessionals. She teaches in their English as a Second Language (ESL) program. She invited us sit in one of her sessions.
"I was an ESL student myself. I came here when I was in second grade. So I can relate to these students and how difficult it is to come into a country where everything is different," said Martinez.
The Livingston Parish School System is expanding its ESL program. The number of students going through it has doubled since 2016. One of the program's champions, Steve Vampram, says it's time to take action.
"We have seen our population increase from 450 students to 860 currently over a two year span. And with this recognition we realized something needed to be done," said Vampram
According to Vampram, they predict those numbers will rise to 1,000 students next school year. They are already planning to add more teachers and staff.
The school system is also opening a new place to handle the incoming students and to take the pressure off of schools. One of those schools is south side elementary; they lost their building during the 2016 flood. The principal says it hasn't stopped them.
"We basically tried to jump right back in and continue our program from the very beginning. We were housed at two different schools. Our program was split but we continued the same services during that time frame. and then when we moved in here, we kept right on going. What we're doing here has made such a difference that by expanding this program, it will make the same difference across the parish " said Principal Laura Williams.
Southside Elementary has one of the largest ESL programs in the parish, with 120 students participating this school year.