New Language Center Will Assist Immigrant Families In Grapevine-Colleyville District
When families arrive from another country, school districts have to determine a student’s home language and explain to parents how the school system here works. We look at how one suburban school district is opening a center similar to those found in larger, urban districts.
Wesam Mitchell, a parent in the Grapevine-Colleyville school district, says she’s often asked to help out other parents and students who are new to the district.
Mitchell is a native of Egypt and speaks Arabic. The district’s been relying on her a lot more lately as the population of Arabic-speaking students has grown. She was pretty excited when she heard the district plans to open a language assessment center this summer.
“I was jumping from my chair. I was so excited because actually I’m helping other parents that don’t speak English,” Mitchell said. “And I found out they’re going to have a center for it, I was like ‘Wow, that’s a big change.’”
It’s a significant change for a district that has actually seen its total enrollment decline and level off to 13,000. Its population of non-English students though has gone up. The district now has about 1,200 students who speak limited English. The largest group is Spanish, followed by Arabic, Urdu and Korean. Mitchell says getting used to a new school in a new country isn’t easy.
“When they come to the school, they feel lost. They feel scared,” Mitchell said. “They don’t know how they gonna communicate with the kids. They be quiet.”
Mitchell tells the story of a young Indian girl in her son’s camp who never spoke.
“I didn’t understand why,” Mitchell said. “Then, they told me because she doesn’t speak English. At that time, I understand how that girl get lost and we’re trying to help them to don’t have this reaction.”
Texas requires school districts to conduct home language surveys. If a student speaks something other than English, the district figures out what that is and places the student in the right program. That could mean bilingual, dual language, or English-as-a-second language. But that’s not all. Judi Cox, who’s the district’s director of world languages, said the center will bring a lot of other services under roof.
“There are so many other things that have to happen – vaccines, residency checks – all of those other things that often the front office staff at a campus does not have the necessary resources, specifically time or the ability to communicate in a native language, to really fully educate the parent on what their options are,” Cox said.
Read the full story on KERA’s Class of ‘17 blog.