The Wichita school district, which already has one of the most ethnically diverse student bodies in the state, is trying to respond to the challenges presented by an influx of non-native English speaking children from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

The district has more than 350 students from other countries and 160 from other U.S. states who speak minimal English. Currently, 81 languages are spoken in the district, The Wichita Eagle reported. It has 11 classrooms spread throughout the district devoted to teaching recent immigrants and refugees.

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Because federal law requires schools to provide information to parents in their preferred language, an Arabic speaker is on call to help teachers and others communicate with families. And the district contracts with Propio Language Services, an interpreting service that enables teachers and parents who speak any language to converse by phone through an interpreter.

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The number of students speaking Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian has decreased while students speaking languages from Africa and the Middle East have increased dramatically in recent years, Hale said. Many in the latter group are refugees from camps in central Africa, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

The 10 main language groups, in order, are: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Lao, Cambodian, the Chinese family of languages, Bengali, Urdu and Swahili.

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