ESL gains traction at AA

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Alta-Aurelia English as a Second Language program is rapidly evolving, according to Jennifer Langdon, ESL educator.

Langdon moved to the district last year, after teaching for 18 years in the Omaha area, where she had found a passion for working with the Latino population.

AA currently has 24 percent Latino student population in its elementary school, and she says she is working on “tightening up” the community relationship with families that are not native English speakers, and making sure the schools are as welcoming as possible for all. Among the efforts is a first - a Family Night for the ESL families held Thursday. The district hopes to use the event to help connect people with the resources they may need.

“The goal is not to wipe their culture out, but but to get the best of both,” she toldthe school board recently.

The district is also utilizing ClassTag app, in which a teacher can send messages in English, and the families in need of translation can receive the message in Spanish.

She said she felt Alta-Aurelia has just as good a program as Storm Lake for the families.

Buena Vista County has one of the highest populations of Pacific island immigrants, and AA particularly is working with new families from Pohnpei, a group currently eligible for automatic citizenship. Communication can be challenging, as each Pacific island may have a different dialect of its one.

It is important for students to learn English as soon as possible. The older they get, the harder the academic language used in classes will be, Langdon said. During the process, the district may need to access translated textbooks online, as they learn best when they can compare their two languages.

In other school board matters:

* Later this month, the district plans to host informational meetings on the upcoming PERL tax levy proposal in both Alta and Aurelia.

* Special education allowable growth was set at $245,315.

* The district acted to rejoin the North Central School Consortium in Manson, which provides services for students who need to be moved due to issues such as behavior problems. The process was done quickly, as one student may need a placement. There is no membership fee, the district would only be charged per student if it uses the service.

* “The Pound” concession stand in Aurelia is being renovated and will be reopened. Art students are also creating murals for the school as well as painting art on stones for the Aurelia community trail.

* Some illnesses are being experienced in the schools as elsewhere, and the district is urging parents to keep students home if they are sick.

* The Sioux City Orchestra was has requested to host an open house at the Roxy Theatre, with a portion of its performers, sometime in the spring. The organization was encouraged to hold an event at Alta because of positive extended visits students from AA have paid to their program.

* Roof repairs at Alta and Aurelia buildings were tabled for the moment, pending structural inspection.