Aug. 19, 2014
On a warm day in August, the rays of sunshine extended into Kingsland Reception Centre as the learning services staff came together to welcome 31 refugees into the Calgary Board of Education (CBE).
It has been a long journey for many of these families, who have fled countries such as Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan to settle in Canada.
The trip from a refugee reception centre to Kingsland Centre is one of happiness for the families, as they experience the hospitality of transportation company First Student Canada
. The company donated the service of a bus and driver to transport the families from their temporary accommodations to Kingsland and back. This Canadian school bus experience is just the beginning for these new CBE students, and the smile on the faces of the children is payment enough for the company.
Once at Kingsland, families are greeted by in-school settlement workers from the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth. The foundation helps Canadian newcomers adjust to their new home with the In-School Settlement Program.
“It’s critical for us to respond to the whole newcomer experience and needs as we register the children into schools,” said Liz Spittal-Cote, system assistant principal, English language learners. “We are very grateful to these community partners for working closely with us to be culturally responsive in support of our refugees.”
While parents work with CBE staffers, translators, and community partners to verify documents and fill out forms, students are given one-on-one attention from CBE English as a Second Language teachers. The ESL instructors, both currently employed and recently retired, work to assess the receptive and expressive language abilities such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing of the students.
Other community partners have also pitched in to make this day memorable for the new Calgarians. Thanks to the generosity of several organizations, the students are treated to new backpacks filled with essentials as well as a new stuffed toy. The children proudly tote their new toy and supplies around Kingsland during their assessments and smile broadly as they show their families their new acquisitions.
“We have a number of organizations supporting our work here at Kingsland to give these families a welcoming experience,” said Spittal-Cote. “We hope it leaves them with a strong impression about what a giving, caring community they have entered.”
Newcomer Mohamed (not his real name) is one student who looks forward to his time in the CBE. Originally from Iraq, he said he is excited to make friends at his new school. He also said he would like to excel in school and enjoys studying.
With the help of an interpreter and his proud mother, the Grade 10 student said he looks forward to math and science courses. “I like it a bit challenging; I like to think more and understand more,” he said.
Numerous refugees have been through traumatic experiences in their former country, and the CBE is prepared to help them transition. Many of the students will be enrolled in the LEAD program, which is offered at eight CBE schools in 12 different classrooms. In this program, students are assisted in learning English literacy, numeracy and social studies. Teachers in this program have received extensive professional learning opportunities including trauma sensitive training, which helps them assist the students in adjusting to their new life. Students can spend up to 20 months in the program after their arrival to the CBE.
As the gateway to the CBE for non-citizens, the Kingsland Centre normally processes 10 new students per day during the school year. Summer is the busiest season for the centre, however, with 30-40 students registering per day. Last year, the centre processed 1,500 newcomers within a span of five weeks in the summer.
Spittal-Cote said Kingsland conducts more intake assessments than any other district in the province, and has seen students from over 120 countries speaking over 80 different languages.
During the last school year many of the non-refugee students entering through Kingsland arrived from China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.