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Programs for non-English speakers detailed; Mc42 takeover proceeds despite charter fight

How to assimilate Esperanza Charter’s growing number of non-English-speaking students was a focus of Choice Foundation’s February board meeting. .

Recently released data show that 46 percent of Esperanza students are of Hispanic descent. Principal Mary Guinn stressed that in many cases, not only is English a second langauge, but they hear little if any of it spoken at home.

Guinn said Esperanza has put the school’s bilingual staff to the task of tailoring its curriculum to help non-English speakers adjust. The emphasis is on small classes that teach English through visual aids, audio tools and vocabulary drills.

“Both students and staff are only allowed to speak English in these classes, Guinn said. “It’s the best way for them to quickly learn the language from their teachers and peers.” She said a lot of resources have been dedicated to the effort and that it is “closing gaps to make sure these students become proficient.”

At Esperanza, 156 of 421 students are newcomers, Guinn said. The continuing enrollment of students throughout the school year is a challenge, she added. Most of the mid-term arrivals are of Hispanic descent, have never attended school in the U.S., do not speak any English. That makes it hard for some of them to catch up to their peers academically in the short term.

In other business, Fran Trujillo, the foundation’s choice to be principal of McDonogh 42, said the school will open for the 2012-13 school year. While the Treme Charter School Association continues a fight to recover the charter it lost earlier this year, Choice has begun interviewing prospective staff and administrators.

Trujillo and other board members voiced concern about McDonogh 42’s proposed move to a temporary site during an 18-month renovation starting next January. According to Recovery School District officials, McDonogh 42 will occupy trailers and makeshift buildings at ReNEW Reed in New Orleans East during the interlude. The board wanted assurances from RSD officials that the school would be able to keep all its students during the move and will not be penalized if enrollment falls.

Lafayette Academy Principal Mickey Landry said that while he had received no guarantees from RSD officials, he was informed that RSD would do its best to guard against a surge in student withdrawals.

Trujillo concluded her report by announcing that Choice has received a $250,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to help with transition and start-up costs for McDonogh 42.

The board went into executive session to discuss new hires and retention of current staff at McDonogh 42.

The next board meeting is March 28.

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