BRIDGEPORT – Spanish-speaking students pleaded with city officials to keep the Adult Learning Center open at a Monday meeting.
The center on Kossuth Street, which provides free daytime programming like English as a Second Language, citizenship and GED preparation classes, is slated for closure next month, and a future location has yet to be decided.
Students gathered in the Aquaculture Center on Monday to ask school board members to keep the center open, as many Spanish-speaking parents rely on the daytime classes to provide for their families.
“Many of these folks are parents of school-aged children who rely on these programs to gain access to better jobs and help their children succeed academically. Our community, particularly the [immigrant] community, is not going to allow the closing of the Adult Learning Center to go unchallenged,” said Gabriel Sobreira, a college student who spoke on behalf of his mother.
According to a 2022 city report, almost 43 percent of Bridgeport’s adult education program students are unemployed, and about 47 percent of students are between ages 25 and 44. The majority of students in the report named “English Language Learner” as their key barrier to employment.
Sobreira questioned why the school district decided to close the location, saying the issue “is not funding,” as the adult education program received almost $4 million in state and local grants last year.
“We are here to ask questions and demand answers,” Sobreira said. “If the district closes the Adult Learning Center, where are the programs going? Are they going to continue to be accessible to all students, including immigrant students?”
Albert Benejan, secretary of the school board, rose from his seat alongside fellow board members and joined attendees, demanding answers and better communication from the district.
“As a board member, I was one of the last [people] to know about this,” he said. “..Where’s the communication? What happened? What’s going on?”
Benejan asked for additional information from the school district, adding that parents of school-aged children have very few options for adult, daytime classes.
“If we don’t have communication, we’re not going nowhere,” he said.
Nelli Jara, executive director of the Connecticut Worker Center, a nonprofit organization advocating for immigrant workers, said she has received calls from many residents asking about the future of the adult center.
“We would like to know where they’re going to move because we have to inform them,” Jara said. “And every day we’re receiving more families asking for English classes.”
In a statement to CT Examiner on Tuesday, Interim Superintendent Alyshia Perrin explained that the Kossuth Street location is closing because it is not compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and needs repairs.
Perrin confirmed the new location is currently unknown.
“The BOE has not been able to come to [a] mutually agreed upon lease for the site. We are still in the process of determining next steps.”
Perrin acknowledged student concerns over the lack of district communication, but said the school board has “not received all of the information to share with stakeholders.”
Leadership at the Adult Learning Center did not respond to a request for comment.