The term “multilingual” is a shift the province is making from English Language Learners (ELL) as it a more accurate representation of the families and students we are welcoming. Most recently we have registered students from countries including Ukraine, the Philippines, India, Mexico, Afghanistan, Japan, Columbia, Honduras, Russia and the United States. This year, almost half of the students ADSB registered are here with a parent study permit, which means one or both parents are studying at Sault College or Algoma University. We expect this trend to continue and are preparing for another wave of registrations in January when their next semester begins. In the coming months, Megan will be working with Sault College to provide information to their potential International students about ADSB.
Linda shared that she presented to the board in November 2016 when we were in the very early stages of working with and registering English Language Learners. At that time, ADSB had 21 elementary and 6 secondary students in seven Sault Ste Marie schools, most from Syria. Today, we have 250+ Multilingual Learners, Kindergarten through Grade 12, located in 25 of our schools district wide representing 44 countries and 35 languages.
ADSB has a centralized registration process for all students who are not Canadian citizens. The process includes a family interview, which allows us to gain information about each child’s prior education experiences, language profiles, as well as getting to know their interests and for our secondary students their career goals. In turn we provide information to the family about ADSB and schooling in Ontario in general. Finally, we complete an Initial Assessment of English and Mathematics, which helps inform course placement for Secondary students, and provides teachers with a starting point for instruction for all our students.
Once registered, school Principals coordinate a school tour. We have interpretation services available to facilitate communication between school and home where required. For secondary school students, families visit the Guidance Department during the initial visit to set up timetables. Information from the family interview and initial assessment is shared with teachers prior to the student starting, so that they can best prepare to welcome new students.
Our English language learners in grades K-8 are attached to an ELL itinerant teacher who works with the classroom teacher to support the student’s language acquisition. ELL itinerants check in with students and classroom teachers on a regular basis. During the first days of school, support is offered to ease the transition of students into their new learning environments. These supports often include multilingual signs on rooms around the school and pairing the student with a peer helper. If there is a student in the school who speaks the same language, they are a logical pick as a peer buddy. This team approach ensures that there is a circle of support around the child and the family.
ADSB works with community partners including the Federal Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot Project and Sault Community Career Centre which is our local IRCC Resettlement Agency (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada). A range of different experiences has brought these families and students to Canada and they come from diverse cultures, backgrounds and school experiences, with a wide variety of strengths and needs. The support provided from schools and community partners is imperative.
Algoma District School Board strives to provide learning environments that welcome all cultures and languages and to provide students whose first language is a language other than English with the programs and supports that will ensure their success at all levels of education.