By Chris Higgins, Des Moines Register
Many elementary students in Ankeny schools will soon have important services closer to home.
The district is expanding its services for English learner students to all 10 elementary schools next school year. Currently, services for elementary students are provided only at two “cluster” schools: Rock Creek on the north side and Southeast on the south side. Secondary students receive services as well.
An elementary student who uses those services must attend one of those two schools, even if it’s not the one closest to their home. Next year, English learning programming will be available at every elementary, so students will be able to attend their neighborhood school.
The district is hiring more teachers to make the change possible.
Nancy Lehman, director of special programs in the Ankeny district, said it is seeing an increasing number of students enrolling with a need for English learner services. Currently, about 230 students are in the program, while 75 more could be but their families waived services. Those 75 students still receive instruction from a general classroom teacher.
Although the district provides transportation to students who need to travel to one of the two cluster schools, district officials believe families will be less likely to decline the program if services are available at their neighborhood school.
Lehman said that the expansion will provide students more access to teachers and richer instruction while allowing for more consistent attendance.
It’s also a matter of equity for the district.
Longtime teacher Licia Pettit works with more than 70 students at Rock Creek who speak English at a variety of levels, whether they are just starting to learn or nearly proficient.
Pettit said that students being able to attend their neighborhood school is beneficial to them and their families. Students will be able to go to school with their friends in the neighborhood, and families who may have limited access to transportation will have an easier time getting to the
Pettit said that families will be more connected and engaged as a result.
“We want to be able to serve all of our students in all of our buildings with all of their needs being met to the best of our ability,” Pettit said.
Lehman said the district will keep an eye on student numbers and needs in the future when considering any more changes.
Chris Higgins covers the eastern suburbs for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.