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IPS to open school for immigrant and refugee students Monday

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A new kind of school will welcome students Monday morning.

The Newcomer Program, located at 3725 N. Kiel Avenue, aims to help immigrant and refugee students learn English as they adjust to living in the United States. Indianapolis Public Schools invested $1.1 million to make the program a reality. The requirement for students is that they arrived in the country within the last year.

"The purpose of the program is to really have an opportunity for students to learn language while simultaneously learning content," said Jessica Feeser, ESL coordinator for IPS.

Currently, IPS students speak 61 languages. The number of English learners has increased significantly in the last 15 years.

"About 82 percent of students enrolled in program are Spanish-speaking from a variety of countries," Feeser said. " We are really seeing a lot of new refugees coming from, in particular, the Congo."

Classrooms are adorned with labels on commonly used items to enable students to expand their English vocabulary. Signs throughout the building are bilingual. From math to physical education, teachers are ready to guide students through the adjustment process.

"They have such a variety of different needs from learning the language to assimilating to the country to understanding even how school works," Feeser said.

Students will spend one year in the Newcomer Program and then transfer to their neighborhood school. A guidance counselor will assist them with drafting a long-term plan.

"The success of this is not just the year of this program," Feeser said. "It’s having students who graduate from our high schools and who are prepared to go on to college or careers of their choice."

The program also provides resources for parents. A parent involvement educator is on staff to give them feedback and let them know where to turn to for services. The role means a lot to Mastora Bakhit because she came to the U.S. from Sudan in 2014.

"I came to this country as immigrant I know it is very hard for immigrants when they come for the first time to find right information, right place, how they can help their children," Bakhit said.

For the first year, the Newcomer Program will focus on kids in grade six through nine. Next year, the program will expand to grades three through six.

You can still enroll your child in the program. Just stop by the school as soon as possible.

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