If you need another sign that Charlotte has become an international city, consider the latest numbers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: 37,170 students speak a language other than English at home.
That’s just over 25 percent of the student body in North Carolina’s second-largest district, though the total is larger than the entire enrollment in all but six of the state’s 115 school districts.
That doesn’t mean more than 37,000 students are immigrants or don’t speak English. Almost three-quarters of those students were born in the United States, according to a recent report to the school board.
And just under 17,000 are considered to have limited proficiency in English, a tally that’s boosted because it includes public prekindergarteners. CMS has 146,140 K-12 students and 2,596 Bright Beginnings prekindergarteners, which means about 11 percent of all students need help learning English.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Students come from 165 countries and speak 187 languages, the CMS report says. The top five home languages are Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, French and Chinese.
The language diversity creates challenges for CMS in teaching students and reaching families. The current budget of about $1.4 billion includes $23 million to serve English language learners.
While many schools have staff who are fluent in Spanish, communicating with families who speak other languages is more difficult. For instance, the school board is working on a survey to ask parents’ views on diversity, neighborhood schools and other issues linked to an ongoing review of student assignment. Members have said it will be presented in Spanish but haven’t determined whether to try translation to any other language.