GREENSBORO — Plans are still on for a new school to serve immigrant and refugee children in High Point — but not this school year.
Guilford County Schools expects to open its second “newcomers” school in spring 2023, “pending unforeseen issues including inflation and global supply chain delays,” according to the district’s spokesman, Janson Silvers. He had said in the summer that the target was to open the school at the start of next semester in January 2022.
In response to a follow-up question Friday morning, Silvers said he wasn’t sure of the reason for the delay to 2023 and would try to find out. As of late Friday, he had not called back.
Another change: The district now expects to permanently house the school in the Tomlinson building on the campus of High Point Central High School. Andrews High School was listed as the location for the school in the spending plan the board approved in June for federal COVID-19 relief dollars.
Anita Sharpe, a Board of Education member whose district includes part of High Point, said she heard from some teachers at High Point Central who were unhappy after the plans changed, requiring them to move out of their classrooms in the couple of weeks before classes started in August. She said she was puzzled about why school administrators decided to change the location.
In an email Friday, Silvers said district leaders decided the Tomlinson building at High Point Central would work better because it’s a separate building and the High Point newcomers school would have students in elementary through high school.
Asked about the cost and schedule for renovations to turn the Tomlinson building into a newcomers school, Silvers said that renovations are still in the planning and design phase. District leaders had said this summer they expected to spend about $750,000 for the renovations to create the school at Andrews, a small portion of COVID-19 relief funds they hoped to use for the school.
Currently, the district has one school dedicated to serving recently arrived immigrant and refugee children who are beginners at learning English. That’s the Doris Henderson Newcomers School, located in Greensboro across the street from Western High School.
The program looks to jumpstart students’ English learning and help them acclimate before they transition to other schools in the district.
School district leaders have said that the immigrant population in the High Point area is growing and that trend is expected to continue. It wouldn’t make sense to continue to bus the students to Greensboro, where the school has long used portable classrooms to help handle its enrollment.
County Commissioner Carlvena Foster, who also represents part of High Point, said she supports having a newcomers school in the area, to cut down on long bus rides for students and make the school more accessible to parents.
“This is just another way to keep kids and families connected,” she said. “You are creating an environment where they can be comfortable, where you are really focusing on their needs and teaching them a style that helps them achieve.”
The district’s plan for its more than $300 million in COVID-19 federal relief calls for using about $8.6 million on the new newcomers school over the next four years. English-language learners are among the students who have suffered the worst drops in academic performance during the pandemic.
According to Silvers, the money would go toward equipping the space and paying for staff.
Like any other school, the High Point newcomers school will also get normal per-pupil funding, Silvers said. Over time, as the High Point school gains students and enrollment balances out between the two schools, the district expects the per-pupil funding and general funding for English-learner programming to be able to sustain the High Point school.
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