For the first time in the history of the Arlington school system, minorities now comprise more than one-third of the 15,139 students enrolled, with the largest increase coming in the number of Indochinese pupils.

While black enrollment has remained steady for the last two years -- 16 percent of the total enrollment -- the percentage of white students dropped from 70 percent two years ago to 68 percent last year and 65.1 percent this year, the lowest in school history.

The Hispanic enrollment is at 7.1 percent, up from 6.5 percent last year, and the American Indian/Alaskan native enrollment has remained stable at 0.1 percent for the past three years.

As a result of the influx of Vietnamese, Cambodian and other Asiatic nationalties to this area, the Indo-chinese enrollment has steadily climbed from 8.4 percent two years ago to 9.4 percent last year and 11.7 percent this year.

The figures, culled from the federally mandated annual civil rights survey of ethnic students, indicate that minority students will continue to account for an increasing percentage of total enrollment.

Many of the minority students do not speak English, according to school officials. Figures from another study show that the largest concentration of non-English-speaking students in elementary schools is in the lower grades and kindergarten. There are 37 different languages spoken by grade school students systemwide.

Emma de Hainer, the schools' bilingual curriculum specialist who oversees the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, said five new ESOL teachers have been hired since September as a result of the increasing number of students who are not proficient in English.

De Hainer said she expects the number of students who do not speak English, or speak it well, to increase again in January. That is when schools south of the equator close and when families traditionally migrate here, she explained.

Despite the increase in the percentage of minority students in Arlington schools, total enrollment has continued to decline. According to school figures, Arlington enrolled nearly 600 fewer children this year than last.