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As Communities Change,So do Schools
01/02/2008

 

From a Sikh temple in Greenwood to a Cinco de Mayo celebration at a local elementary school, examples of Johnson County's changing face can be found throughout the community.

Statistics help paint the picture.
The latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates from data collected in 2007 show Johnson County's minority population has nearly doubled since 2000.
The county's minority population increased from 4,281 to 8,353 during the 7-year span, a more than 95 percent increase, according to estimates released in August by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey program.
Schools offer a glimpse into the evolving culture, as students and staff adjust to new faces in the classroom.

Lessons have been learned.
"I think both for our students and our staff, just being more aware of diversity and that different cultures bring different customs," said Janet Boyle, assistant superintendent of Center Grove Schools, where Asians represent the largest minority. "We need to be aware of those and respectful of those differences brought by those cultures."
Blacks represent the largest minority increase in Johnson County, at 134 percent, followed by Asian (112 percent) and Hispanic (91 percent).
"We are seeing children who need support with English," said Helen Crawford, elementary curriculum director with Greenwood Schools, where Hispanics are the largest minority. "It certainly impacts instruction. In many cases, we're getting people who support us and volunteer their time."
Key to that support is Esperanza En Jesucristo, a ministry on Main Street in Greenwood that began a homework club in 2004 to assist Hispanic students whose parents know little English.
At Greenwood Schools, the number of students with limited English capabilties has grown from 5 in 2000-01 to 155 this year.
"I think a part of the process for any school system when you have a new group of students is professional development for teachers so they understand what different proficiency levels are," Crawford said. "We try really hard to make sure we do let our teachers know what their students' levels are and what kind of support they need."

Culture also plays a role.
Northeast Elementary School, for example, hosts an annual Cinco de Mayo Day, heavy on parental involvement.
"That's been very successful," Crawford said, "so parental involvement is important with all the kids."
While the survey offers a demographic snapshot of 2007, new trends are emerging in at least one ethnicity.
Over the past three years, an estimated 2,000 Indian Sikhs have settled into the small cities and suburban neighborhoods south of Indianapolis, including Greenwood and Whiteland.
The Sikhs even bought a home on Graham Road in Greenwood and transformed it into a temple, or Gurdwara, that also serves as a social hub.
More recently, however, many Sikhs who settled in Johnson County are seeking to move to other communities.
The reasons are varied: Some have had difficulty finding employment, others want a different school environment, some seek a change of scenery.
"Lots of things are happening," said Beenu Sikand, a Sikh Realtor who also often acts as a translator. "Lots of people are moving out of Greenwood. I think people want change."
Despite the migration, Sikand said Greenwood and the Gurdwara will remain a cultural center among the Sikhs.
"The people who started this one will come to this one every Sunday," she said. "The people who started the Greenwood Gurdwara are not going to leave it. They'll go back to their church."

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