Web Exclusive: School Diversity

1 decade 11 months 6 days ago Thursday, June 21 2007 Jun 21, 2007 Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:34:45 PM CDT June 21, 2007 in News

That extra support for non-native speakers may not be enough if you talk to some of Columbia's international families.

Columbia is home to many immigrants like Mr. and Mrs. Hyosoon Kim who are living in town for a short time while they study at the University of Missouri.  Their children also live in town and the speaks very little English.  That makes it tough for the kids to learn in school.

"At first he had trouble speaking English in school, and listening is even harder," Chunghun Yun said.

As immigration numbers rise over the years, so do the number of students enrolled in the public schools' English Learning Program. From 2004 to 2005, the number of students has doubled.

Insoo Cho mentioned that there is "not enough time to write English and grammar and structure."

"He spends an hour a day in the ELL class, while that's usually enough time, but because there are too many students in the class we feel he doesn't have enough opportunities to speak up," Yun said.

Most parents, like the Kims, hire tutors to give their children extra speaking time, but communicating is just part of the challenge.

"In Korea we play soccer, but in America they don't play soccer, and I asked them to play soccer but they don't want to play that so that was kind of hard," 12-year-old Richard Cho says.

"Kids come here many times because their parents want them to be in a very diverse community," Teresa Vandover, Lee Elementary School Principal says. "Kids are kids and sometimes they need to have respect for one another modeled and taught to them."

Lee Elementary has a highly multi-cultural population since its location is so close to the university. With so many new students, the kids are not the only ones catching up.

Vandover said, "We are going to embrace a diversity series next year as our professional development, and we are going to learn more and deeper about the cultures of the kids we serve."

The English Language Learners program in schools has also increased its staff for the first time in several years, but the language difference still leads to other challenges in the community.

Human Rights Educator Nanette Ward said, "Anyone with not having English as a first language is being able to, even though it's a small community, is to access all the resources within the community."

Cho said, "I really want them to provide a general and systematic guidebook that contains all basic information for living here."

But when it comes to getting used to life in Columbia, these families feel that all it takes is just a little time.

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