Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval Schools Go Global; Englewood to Host Program for International Students

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval Schools Go Global; Englewood to Host Program for International Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

A Duval County high school will be home to a special program designed to serve the school district's growing number of international students, including many whose families escaped war or oppression in their homelands.

Opening in August with 120 high school-age students, the Newcomer School will be a "school within a school" at Englewood High School. It is designed for students who speak little or no English and who have had limited formal schooling.

Those students include many refugees whose families were resettled in Jacksonville by the federal government, said Brenda Trimble, supervisor of the district's English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

The refugees fled wars, civil conflicts or religious, ethnic or other government persecution in their home countries. Other students immigrated with their families to Jacksonville in the hopes of making a better life for themselves.

"Burmese is the second most common language spoken in the school system right now," Trimble said.

Tha-Chin Sung, 16, is among the Burmese refugees. She said American schools are very different from what she was used to.

"Sometimes, I was scared because the teacher would hit you," she said, through a translator. They had no library or computers, just a teacher and a chalk board for the lessons, she said.

Among the first of its kind in Florida, the district's Newcomer School will join about 162 similar schools nationwide, according to Center for Applied Linguistics data.

Because it is a transitional program, the school will last no more than four semesters. District officials are considering opening a similar but smaller school at Southside Middle School. It initially would serve 80 students, Trimble said.

"We have over 4,000 students speaking 72 languages from 123 countries in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade," she said. "About 33 percent of them are refugees, with many of them coming directly to us from refugee camps all over the world."

Each war, civil conflict or disaster in the world brings an influx of refugee students, she said.

The Newcomer School will focus on developing the students' English proficiency. It also will teach core academics, including reading and math. Like their English-speaking counterparts, the newcomers must meet Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test standards, pass end-of-course tests and earn graduation credits to get their diplomas. Tutoring will be available before and after school and possibly on Saturdays.

Wrap-around services will be available to the students through the program's alliance with The Center for Language and Culture at Kings Trail Elementary School, Lutheran Social Services Refugee Resettlement, World Relief and Catholic Charities, Trimble said.

Sivath Lim survived the genocide in Cambodia and endured life in a refugee camp before immigrating to America where he became a teacher. …

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