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Meeting to help with issues

Officials hope to bridge gap between immigrants, schools

Brent Boyer

Meeting the needs of Routt County’s growing immigrant population is a relatively new predicament for the Steamboat Springs School District and one it hopes to further address at a special meeting tonight at Soda Creek Elementary School.

The district, in conjunction with a new community organization geared toward working with and providing services for local immigrants, is hosting a 5:30 p.m. meeting that will, among other things, try to bridge the gap between the families of non-English speaking students and the school system.

“The initial meeting is an opportunity for parents of our K-12 English Language Learner students and anyone else interested to meet and discuss how we can best support their needs,” Soda Creek Principal Judy Harris said.

The meeting will be conducted in Spanish and English, Harris said. Meeting notices were sent to the families of the district’s English Language Learner, or ELL, students.

The two-part meeting concludes with a presentation about immigration law and related issues by local attorney Elizabeth Wittemyer. Wittemyer’s presentation is sponsored by the Migrant Education Program and is open to the public.

During the past three years, the school district has seen its ELL student population grow by more than 300 percent. The district has hired multiple English as a Second Language, or ESL, aides to work with the ELL students in their regular classrooms and in individual and small-group settings.

But there remains a sizable gap between the schools and the non-English speaking students and families they serve. Including even basic communication between teachers and parents, the district needs to figure out how best to support the educational needs of its ELL families, Harris said.

Summer Laws, one of the district’s ESL aides and co-founder of the local nonprofit Comunidad Integrada (Integrated Community), said the district needs to work on engaging immigrant parents in their children’s education. At tonight’s meeting, the group will discuss the formation of an ELL parent group.

“Sometimes, because of the language barrier, they don’t feel comfortable saying what they think their children need,” Laws said.

Parents who don’t speak English also often are hesitant to help their children with homework and other school assignments, even if they can provide assistance in their native language.

Wittemyer’s presentation, scheduled to begin at about 6:30 p.m., will address immigration and naturalization laws and issues, Laws said. Wittemyer also will be available to answer general questions about those matters.

Tequila’s Mexican restaurant is providing dinner for those who attend tonight’s meeting.

— To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com


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