MARTINSBURG, W.Va.—The Census Bureau reported last week that West Virginia's Hispanic population remains relatively small, but Berkeley and Jefferson counties saw a more than 200 percent increase in the last decade, according to Census 2010 data.
In 2010, the Census Bureau said there were 2,489 residents of Hispanic or Latino origin in Jefferson County, up from 734 in 2000.
Berkeley County's Hispanic/Latino population — the largest in the state last year — was 3,961, up from 1,156 in 2000, according to the data.
Jefferson had the second-highest Hispanic/Latino population statewide last year, followed by Kanawha (1,812) and Monongalia (1,692) counties.
Kim Hough, director of federal programs for Berkeley County Schools, said the school district is the state's most diverse.
Nearly 80 percent of students in the county school system's English language learning program this year are native Spanish speakers, Hough said.
Twenty-three other languages are spoken, Hough said.
The school system experienced more than a 10 percent increase in students in the program during the 2009-10 school year, Hough said.
The growth has been part of a long-term trend, but Hough said there was a slight dip in growth at the onset of the recession.
The school system received about $110,000 in federal funding to support the English language learning program last year, but that isn't a large grant considering the number of students, Hough said.
On Thursday, the school system arranged for 84 middle and high school students and parents to travel to Wheaton (Md.) High School to take advantage of an orientation program for Spanish-speaking families whose children might be the first generation to go to college, Hough said.
The school system also is moving forward with staff development initiatives at every school to institute "culturally responsive" teaching strategies and has purchased school library books that help bridge the language barrier so Spanish-speaking parents can still read to their children, Hough said.
While Hispanic/Latino populations grew faster, black populations in both counties were still larger, with Berkeley County seeing an increase from 3,558 to 7,432, ranking second statewide behind Kanawha County, according to the Census data. Jefferson County increased from 2,571 to 3,524, according to the data.
The Asian population in both counties more than doubled, with 878 residents in Berkeley County up from 350 10 years ago, and 618 in Jefferson, up from 252, according to the data
In releasing the figures, the Census Bureau cautioned that the large differences in Hispanic and race counts between Census 2000 and the 2010 Census could be attributed to a number of demographic factors. The Census Bureau also noted there were some changes in the wording of questions about Hispanic origin and race that could have influenced reporting patterns last year.