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Published September 26, 2011, 10:11 PM

Parents Concerned With Crowded Classrooms at Century Elementary

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks School District is under fire from some parents concerned about over-crowding at one elementary school, causing some parents to leave the district, and possibly discouraging other families from moving here.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks School District is under fire from some parents concerned about over-crowding at one elementary school, causing some parents to leave the district, and possibly discouraging other families from moving here.

"Century has 590 kids, 66 are E.L.L. students," said Robin Benson. Benson's son goes to Century.

E.L.L., or English Language Learners, are students from other countries who know little to no English.

These students go to regular classes during the day, but also attend a class that focuses on integrating them into the American classroom. It is taught by one teacher and a few para professionals.

"When you look at some of the research that is out there to help ELL students integrate into society, they are better served in small settings and Century is at max capacity," said Benson.

Benson is not alone. Other parents are concerned that the high numbers are impacting ALL students. Teachers are being pulled in too many directions with little assistance. Benson says teachers spending extra time helping the non-English speaking students catch up, means less time with other students.

"It's not a race thing, but I feel we are doing them a disservice. When you have a child who has had no exposure to English and you put him in a class where everyone speaks English; how scary is that?" said Benson.

She suggests putting the E.L.L. students in a smaller school where they can get more attention. Benson said Winship Elementary is at 144 students and Wilder is at 76.

"They wouldn't have the wide range of activities Century has to offer. Being a larger school it has full-time music people, full-time phy. ed. people and full-time librarians," said Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson.

Thompson said the district is looking at possibly restructuring things or adding more staff.

"We've engaged a company to look at long-term and short-term planning with boundary lines, attendance areas. What we've heard from parents we want to address it if these concerns are legitimate," said Thompson.

Benson said, the district has mentioned restructuring boundary lines before.

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