Rural school facing language barrier

Published: Mar. 29, 2016 at 11:47 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2016 at 9:25 PM CDT
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Friona elementary. Source: KFDA
Friona elementary. Source: KFDA
Friona elementary students. Source: KFDA
Friona elementary students. Source: KFDA

FRIONA, TX (KFDA) -  A rural community is seeing a significant change in its demographics.

Throughout the years, Friona has shifted from an estimated 80% of its citizens being categorized as Caucasian to 80% Latino.

There is no direct factor as to why the town is seeing the change, but the sudden shift is creating barriers inside the community's education.

"They are having a hard time just communicating with other students in the hall way and so that makes it difficult to socialize," principal Ben Kirton said. "Some of the issues we face especially with the curriculum and instruction are teachers not feeling comfortable and confident that the student is progressing."

Over the last year, the school has seen an increase of Guatemalan students. These students do not come in speaking English or Spanish, causing the schools to see a higher need for bilingual teachers. But bilingual teachers are limited.

To battle the sudden shift in demographic, Friona's elementary school is undergoing its own sudden change. The school is implementing more technology  in order to help students overcome the language barrier.

'Istation' carries Spanish support and is one of the online programs the school uses to help students with their reading. The use of iPads have also helped students use visual learning, and the device is able to articulate certain words and 'speak' to the student. Kirton says students have responded well to the use of iPads and other online programs.

But while the extra technology can be helpful, it doesn't always replicate the learning experience a teacher can give.

"Technology is not the answer but it sure helps out and provides an extra support that we couldn't of given ten years ago. It is really beneficial to us and nice to be able to say hey we got this for you and you can at least work and practice on the language," Kirton said.

Teachers are encouraged to take the English as a Second Language test and the school works with them on ESL training.

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