Multicultural News

Perry Township builds on immigrant, refugee student education access

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Perry Township is building on nearly 15 years of work, improving education access for the immigrant and refugee population of Indianapolis. School leaders say it’s not enough to just be reactive, but also proactive. This year they are anticipating an even more robust immigrant student body.

Perry Township just started a new school year with 30 percent of the student population consisting of immigrants and refugees. They say it’s important to cultivate education as they have an ever diversifying student body, making sure each student feels welcome and having the tools they need to succeed is vital.

The flags inside Winchester Village Elementary school is representative of the culturally diverse student body. Looking at all the little faces inside each classroom, the diversity runs even deeper.

“In all of our classroom you’re going to see children from all over the world speaking multiple languages. In just beautiful different colors,” principal Blair Schneider, said.

Students from Burma, Mexico and Tanzania make up a large portion of the immigrant refugee student body, and with the recent influx of Afghans, new students are making their way here.

“It’s a scary thing to move to a new place, and so we always want to make sure that our school is welcoming and safe. We work really well to find things in their languages so that they can communicate,” Schneider said.

Lisa Netsch is an English learner administrator. In 2010, the immigrant student body was about 1,600. Today, it’s 4,800; so they have to approach education differently.

“We have staff that supports our students in three levels we have EL (English Learner) teachers. We have EL facilitators,” Netsch said. “That are instructional people in each building and they act as instructional coaches or delivering services to our EL students.”

Perry township has 21 campuses with about 100 English learner staff. Each undergoing annual training on implementing best practices when working with immigrant students. With many others teachers undergoing similar training.

“Some days I sit back and realize how important and how big the scope of the job is, but in the end it’s about the students,” Netsch said.

Although this school is one part of the world they see, it’s an important snapshot of the world around them.

“Our kids are seeing that diversity is everywhere,” Schneider said.