The first school on Long Island created specifically for students who need instruction in the English language will open Monday on the Riverhead campus of Eastern Suffolk BOCES.
The school at first will enroll 10 students from ages 16 to 21, mostly from Riverhead. The program is meant to help address the need posed by immigrant students, many of whom have come to the United States with little or no formal education.
The program, which is voluntary, could expand to serve more students in the future and add another location closer to western Suffolk County, said Julie Lutz, chief operating officer of Eastern Suffolk BOCES.
"These are students who go into a high school and are in a chemistry class and have no idea what's going on," Lutz said. "They have missed . . . years of education."
The curriculum will focus both on learning English and on basic skills. A career component, where students could learn an employment skill such as culinary arts, will be included.
The school will operate in the Harry B. Ward Technical Center weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. It has a principal, guidance counselor, teachers and teaching assistants. All are bilingual.
Typically, participating students have been identified by guidance counselors in the schools they were attending. The program's late-afternoon hours allow them to work during the day.
After completion, students will be given the option to continue their studies there or return to a traditional high school setting.
Districts pay tuition for the program at a cost of $8,548 per student in monthly installments, but only when the student is enrolled.
The idea for the school came about after "a number of school districts had come to us and asked us to be part of a conversation about the challenges of providing an appropriate education for students," Lutz said.
Educators hope the students will catch up enough to return to high school and earn a diploma, or learn a skill to help them with future employment.
David Wicks, the Riverhead district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said about seven Riverhead students will attend. In the past few years, the district has seen an influx of immigrants entering the high school who are far behind on credits, he said, making it "difficult if not mathematically impossible for them to graduate" before they turn 21.
Riverhead educators approached Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services "to see if there was anything we could do to provide more appropriate services and give them a better foundation in ELA [English language arts] and math, and the skills that they would be able to use outside of school," Wicks said.
Some districts on Long Island saw particularly large increases of immigrant students this school year. More than 2,600 children who entered the United States illegally, many fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, were released to relatives and sponsors in Nassau and Suffolk counties from Jan. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, according to federal statistics. The number is the highest in the tristate area and ranks near the top nationally.
"Districts put together their budgets last spring, and this was not something that was built into a district budget," Lutz said. "So these districts that got this big influx of students really could use some extra funding."