As with all things Izzi B, a great deal of thought and energy went into launching the school’s Newcomer Program successfully August of 2015. By Winter Break, we had enrolled 45 students, coming from Burma, Nepal, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. All of our Newcomer students predominantly live in one of the three nearby housing communities we serve. The Newcomer students and families who arrive throughout the school year are incredibly excited to be a part of our IBCS community and we are incredibly excited to have them. And, they are nervous as well. So are we. It is all very new, and different, and beautiful. We send huge gratitude to each of you for your part in embracing this opportunity with such open and loving arms.
Wanting to provide you all with a little background information, we offer the following. Izzi B’s Newcomer Center is part of the English Language Acquisition (ELA) Program. It is designed for eligible students who are new to Denver Public Schools as well as to students who have lived here for some time. Our Newcomer Center serves English language learners identified at SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education) and who have minimal literacy skills in both their native language and English. Additionally, we enroll speakers of languages other than English who may have attended school previously and are literate in their native language but still at a beginning level in their English language learning.
Currently, when students who qualify as Newcomers enroll at IBCS they are placed in Newcomer classrooms. We have three identified Newcomer classrooms at Izzi B—ECE, K and first/second grade. Each Newcomer classroom is staffed with a teacher and paraprofessional team funded by either the DPS Early Childhood Department or the DPS ELA (English Language Acquisition) Department.
Because the number of Newcomer students enrolled at grades 3, 4 and 5 is low, these students are served in the regular classroom with their native English-speaking peers. Our full-time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher provides in-and-out-of-class support to these students.
Our ECE, K and 1-2 newcomer students are served in a newcomer classroom until they reach a level of English language proficiency that prepares them to succeed in a regular English-speaking classroom. Once they transition to a “mainstream” classroom, ESL instruction and ongoing language support is provided as needed until our English Language Learners (ELLs) reach a level of English proficiency commensurate with their native English-speaking peers.
Newcomer classrooms are language-rich learning environments where priority is placed on learning English vocabulary and English language structures quickly. Thus, the entire day is dedicated to English language development. Instruction is embedded as much as possible in multi-sensory (seeing, hearing, doing) contexts so that the students can actively learn the new material in many different and overlapping ways. Our Newcomer students receive English instruction that focuses on listening, speaking, reading, and writing improvement with student-adult ratios lower than their native-English speaking peers to create more opportunities to provide focused instruction since linguistic ground must be made up. Language learning in a newcomer classroom, as it is in the regular classroom, is accompanied by computer system/technology support.
Family Ambassador Program: During the summer, in an effort to nurture a welcoming environment for incoming Newcomer families, Izzi B launched the first phase of its Family Ambassador Program. The goal of this program is to build lasting and mutually supportive relationships between current and new families and children. Many current IBCS families, and students, volunteered to be paired with Newcomer families and children. During the school year will schedule both in-school and out-of-school friendship-building activities that include understanding the nuts and bolts of Izzi B and how it works.
Family Community Resource Center (FCRC): Izzi B’s Family Community Resource Center opened last year and served a number of IBCS families in need of support. This year, with the addition of the Newcomer program, the range of resources required will continue to expand. Maya Vigil is the director of the FCRC. She will assist any family who would like support. Supports take a variety of forms and include such things as adult education classes, direct services, and community-provide services.
Understanding the Refugee Experience: For those of you who have not viewed “Understanding the Refugee Experience,” we have included a link below. This educational event, hosted by Isabella Bird Community School in partnership with the Colorado Refugee Services Program and Colorado African Organization’s Community Navigators offers a window into the resettlement process that refugees and immigrants go through in order to obtain housing and educational opportunities. In the video, the refugee experience is described at the state and local levels, and most compelling perhaps, are the voices of the refugee youth who teach us ways to create a warm and welcoming environment.