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Making the Grade: Jerome School District supporting English learning students

Posted at 3:41 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 17:41:36-04

JEROME, Idaho — The Jerome School District has around 4,200 students. Of those students, about a thousand are what the district calls "English learners."

"Those are students that have been identified as having a language other than English in the home--their primary language is something other than English," said Kim Lickley, Federal Programs Director with the district.

In Jerome, English learners and their families are central to the community.

"Because of ag and dairy industries, many of those families are here year-round," said Superintedent of the Jerome School District Dale Layne.

As the district tackles the challenges with "going virtual," English learning students and their parents are facing challenges too.

"It was actually pretty easy when I was doing it in the classroom, but on the computer, it seems a lot harder," said fourth grade English learning student Zahyda Magana.

Her mom, Maria Samantha Magana, says it's been a challenge for Zahyda to stay home.

"My daughter keeps telling me, 'Oh mom I miss my teachers, my classes, my classmates. I want to go back to school,'" Magana said.

The Jerome School District uses an educational model called the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). The model is used to make sure English learning students have their content and language needs met in mainstream classrooms.

"Protocol that teachers use to add things like visuals, realia so that English learners can connect those concepts to things that tie to their background knowledge," explained Janet Avery, Curriculum Director for the District.

It's a model they've been utilizing in their online learning too.

"It looks a little bit different, it's a little bit more of a challenge, but we know that our staff are working hard to make sure they're including language as much as possible in an online environment," Lickley said.

The district has several staff members dedicated to working with English learning families, as well as English learning teachers in classrooms.

"We have several programs that are available for those families, we have interpreters, we are fortunate in our district to have quite a few bilingual staff members that are able to reach out to those families and support those families," Lickley said.

School district officials say although there have been challenges, a benefit to digital learning is the opportunity for English learning students to feel more comfortable participating in the classroom.