The Portland school district is on track to enroll substantially higher numbers of new multilingual learners in city schools by the end of the school year than it did in 2021-22.

By the end of January, Portland public schools had enrolled 612 new multilingual learners – students whose primary language is not English – this school year, and that number is expected to increase. In ’21-’22, the district enrolled 496 new multilingual learners.

“This volume we have not ever seen,” said Grace Valenzuela, executive director of communications and community partnerships for the district, at a workshop following a school board meeting Tuesday night.

The district as a whole enrolls around 6,500 students. More than 25 percent – 1,863 – of those students are multilingual learners.

The school board and administrators discussed Tuesday how to best support the influx of multilingual learners.

Many of the new multilingual students have had very little formal education, or had it interrupted, during long migrations to the United States, and almost of them – around 90 percent – need significant English support to succeed in Portland schools, according to Valenzuela.


At the beginning of the school year, the ratio of English-as-a-second-language teachers to multilingual students was one teacher for every 18 students at the pre-kindergarten level, one per 26 at the elementary level and one per 29 in the city’s secondary schools.

The majority of new multilingual students have enrolled in elementary schools. Of the 612 who enrolled for the first time this year, 379 attend elementary school, 82 attend middle school and 151 are in high school. Most of the students, 389, enrolled in September, but others have enrolled since.

At the same time, the district is supporting record numbers of new homeless students, said Valenzuela. Since the start of the school year, 437 homeless students have joined the district.

Eighty-three percent of the homeless students who enrolled this year are multilingual learners and 13 percent are unaccompanied youth.

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