ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — St. Paul Public Schools says it might close LEAP High School and four elementary schools because of low enrollment.

From a refugee camp in Thailand to a student in St. Paul, 18-year-old Naing Aung has finally found his refuge in LEAP High School.

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“We came from same refugee, so we understand each other,” Aung said. “We can’t speak English that well.”

Students at the school have a special bond because LEAP specifically serves learners that are new to the country.

“LEAP High School is the perfect place for immigrants to have a good environment while learning culture, language and assignments,” said Israel Toledo, a sophomore.

Declining enrollment could cause the school to close. LEAP went from about 360 enrolled students in 2011 to a current enrollment of about 140 students.

The St. Paul Board of Education recommends shutting down LEAP and four elementary schools including Highwood Hills, John A. Johnson, Jackson, and Wellstone. It’s part of a plan called Envision SPPS.

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LEAP teacher Sophorn Lissick says the announcement came as a shock. Teachers say LEAP has helped English learners thrive. They’re concerned students will get lost in the mix at a traditional school.

“We also have social and emotional support for our students as well,” Lissick said. “I would have benefited from a program like this myself.”

The proposal promises that if the five schools close, more money and resources can be given to existing schools to create a more well-rounded curriculum.

“You said we’re not well-rounded, but to us we have all these programs we offer to our students, we feel like we’re really well-rounded,” Lissick said.

“I feel sad,” Aung told WCCO. “I don’t want to go to another school, because I might not learn a lot from them.”

The school board will make its decision Nov. 16.

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