A Look at Zionsville Community Schools’ English Learners Program

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July/August 2023

As a brand-new school year commences and the district welcomes approximately 8,000 into its student body, many of whom are English Learners [ELs], I thought it prudent to ask about Zionsville Community Schools’ EL Program and what type of supports and resources are available for these students and their families. I spoke with ZCS Assistant Superintendent Kris Devereaux, who graciously offered her time and input on this subject.

Zionsville Community Schools’ English Learners

A Brief Overview of ZCS’ EL Program

The mission of the ZCS EL Program is to support ELs through their journey of language development. ZCS’ EL instructors serve as liaisons for your child in supporting their classroom learning. These instructors also enjoy sharing cultural events and celebrations from both from the United States and abroad.

ZCS has the privilege of serving EL students with dedicated staff who understand the needs of English Learners. The district strives to provide the best service possible to every EL student. The program’s goals are to:

-Develop English Language Learners’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.

-Cultivate awareness and support of English Learners in the Zionsville community.

-Provide effective communication between families of English Learners and the school community

ZCS Is Strong in Every Language

In 2018, I wrote an article on the “Strong in Every Language” grant awarded to ZCS by the Zionsville Education Foundation. That grant provided the EL team with interpretation and translation technology that is being used in all ZCS schools so that information can be communicated to students and families in languages other than English.

There were 52 different languages spoken throughout the ZCS school district at the time of publishing that article. Today, there are 65 languages.

Devereaux expressed, “The more diversity we have, the better we are. In 2016, we had approximately 45 EL students. In 2021, we were at 120, and this year, 2023, not counting students that will come in at the start of the school year, we will begin the [school] year with approximately 225 EL students. We are really growing in our diversity, and I think that’s so exciting!”

As a result of ZEF’s generosity and grants to ZCS, Devereaux shared that the district’s website and Parent Square software are just two of the resources that have made communications easier.

“We’re always looking for additional things to meet the needs of our students and their families so that they feel welcome,” Devereaux stated. “All of our school communications go through Parent Square and are translated into the parent or guardian’s indicated language preference. We also updated our website to allow it to be more translation friendly as well.”

Meeting the EL Community Where They Are

ZCS has hired additional EL teachers to accommodate the growing EL student population.

“We now have six EL teachers,” Devereaux said. “They not only go above and beyond to provide access to resources for the kids during the school day but also the families to connect them with community resources they need. We are bringing back the EL family engagement nights that we had to pause during COVID. These engagement nights bring our EL families together not only to meet but to learn and ask questions from each other and gain additional resources.”

Devereaux continued, “I cannot say enough about our Director of Student Resources Maggie Ioannacci — she oversees our EL program and connects the families to resources right away. We have so many different languages and people coming [to Zionsville] with varying levels of English proficiency. So, talking with those families and finding out from their perspectives and experiences what we can do to help them feel welcome and be a part of Zionsville Community Schools is why we did things like [amending] Parent Square and the [district’s] website so they can translate our communications. It also helps us to ask the right questions so that we’re not missing something that could be super helpful.”

For more information on the ZCS English Learners Program, visit zcs.k12.in.us. To contact Director of Student Resources Maggie Ioannacci, call (317)873-2858 or email [email protected].