Red Deer Public Schools has welcomed 196 newcomers from across the globe to its Division since the start of the 2022/2023 school year.
“We have always welcomed new students from around the world, but we have seen a significant increase since last summer,” said Amy Nye, Coordinator of International Languages with the Division’s Learning Services team. “These newcomers make such a positive difference in our classroom. They offer new perspectives, we get to learn about new cultures and about diversity, and they learn from the other students in the classroom too. It’s really mutually beneficial as we learn each other’s perspectives. They really strengthen the fabric of our communities.”
The Division is seeing new students come from around the world, but the top countries include Ukraine, Syria, the Philippines and Afghanistan. Nye said the Division has a strong relationship with CARE for Newcomers, who help to assist and facilitate many of the families in the process.
When a new family arrives, they go through an intake and registration process. This includes gathering information such as family, education and medical history. Students also undergo an English language assessment. The assessment covers four strands of language, listening, speaking, reading and writing with part of the assessment being conversational. “We also read with them to gauge their fluency and reading comprehension, collect a writing sample and complete a math assessment,” said Nye.
Information collected is then put into a report and sent to the school the child will be attending so they can plan for programming.
“The grade level where we are enrolling the most students who are new to Canada is Grade 9,” said Nye. “Many of the newcomers we welcome attend our English As an Additional Language (EAL) programs at Fairview Elementary School, Central Middle School and Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. If students are in Kindergarten to Grade 2, they attend their neighbourhood schools because they acquire the English language quickly.”
The EAL programs at Fairview Elementary School, Central Middle School and Lindsay Thurber teaches students how to read, write, speak and listen in English, all while learning the Alberta curriculum. Students in this program focus on a mixture of functional and academic language, and work with teachers who specialize in second language acquisition strategies.
This school year has seen four types of newcomers which include economic immigrants, refugees, sponsored immigrants, and displaced families such as those who have come from Ukraine. Alberta Education provides five-year funding for EAL, and they also provide funding for displaced students from Ukraine.
In addition, due to the increased number of newcomers to Red Deer Public, the Division has hired three new EAL teachers and expanded its intake team to accommodate the rising demand.
As for the remainder of the school year, Nye expects to continue to see newcomers to the Division. “We are equipped and ready to continue to welcome new students and their families to Red Deer Public.”