DENVER (KDVR) — The influx of migrants coming to Denver has impacted the city’s budget and the existing unhoused population. Now, the Denver Public Schools system is also feeling pressure from a spike in migrant students.
FOX31’s Carly Moore sat down with the director of the Multilingual Education Department, Adrienne Endres. She said classrooms are overflowing and resources are being squeezed.
The goal of the department at DPS is to enroll students in either the bilingual or English as a second language program.
They also have “Newcomer Centers” at all grade levels. The centers are for students who are new to the United States, have a history of interrupted education and have poor literacy in both English and their native language. These centers prepare them for a mainstream classroom setting.
Since the start of the school year, DPS has had 2,000 new migrant students, with 500 coming in October alone.
The program serves about 30,000 students a year, and they plan for some new arrivals. However, this surge is unprecedented.
“It’s definitely stretching our infrastructure, so we have a lot of bilingual programs. Many of the students we’re seeing right now are Spanish-speaking, and we are well-poised to support them. And it’s more than we’ve had before. So, we’re seeing larger class sizes. We’re seeing some schools, some grade levels at some schools, that are full and having to overflow students to a nearby school,” said Endres. “I will say our elementary classrooms are feeling the most, they’re bursting at the seams more than our other grade levels.”
There are three newcomer centers at the middle and high school level and one for elementary students. However, because the elementary program is overflowing, DPS will have to create another one at Montclair Elementary School.
DPS said the biggest regions that are impacted are northwest Denver, the Monaco corridor and southeast of that area.
Endres said they want to welcome new students, but she knows there is a tipping point.
Impact of influx on existing students
As a parent herself, Endres acknowledges that this experience could be stressful for existing students as they deal with a potentially crowded classroom and a change of pace in instruction.
“I can speak to it as a parent to my son who is in a bilingual classroom in southeast Denver that started with 24 kids, and I think they’re at 32. Now, they’re getting close to being a full classroom too. We felt the shift like he said, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of kids in my classroom. It’s kind of stressful,'” Endres said.
For parents, she adds this could be a teachable moment.
“I think it’s twofold. I mean, for my son, how do you navigate that stress? Like what are some ways to help you feel calm in a stressful situation, and how do you help those kiddos? They’re stressed out too, they’re in everything is new to them,” said Endres. “So, what I would say to other parents is use this as an opportunity to teach empathy, to teach about being a global citizen. We have a lot of privilege just living here. So how do we use that privilege for good? By welcoming our new families and making Denver their home community too.”
Resources for teachers
Endres said teachers are provided with resources on how to communicate with and teach multilingual students. The goal is to always have the content in their native language, when possible.
DPS teachers have a newcomer tool kit and online courses so they can learn different strategies. There is also a team of instructional specialists who go around to each school to help. They recently held some district-wide professional learning.
Next week, Nov. 14, the district will be hosting a job fair specifically for bilingual teachers to help deal with some classroom overflow. The fair is at North High School from 5-7 p.m.