Youngstown schools reflect rising Hispanic population

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A new study by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that when students return to school in the next few weeks, non-Hispanic white students will be in the minority for the first time ever.

That is the trend across America and the Mahoning Valley is no different. Growth in the Hispanic community across the nation means classrooms are more ethnically diverse than ever before.

“There is benefit for all students to see the difference in another culture. We all bleed the same. Because you are from this race or that race, we can now live together, work together, be educated together. It is good for all students to see that,” Youngstown Schools Superintendent Dr. Connie Hathorn said.

The city schools are seeing enrollment numbers that follow the national trend. Over the past five years, the Hispanic student enrollment has increased 25 percent. During that same time period, overall enrollment in the district has decreased by 23 percent.

In 2009, 7.9 percent of students in the city schools were identified as Hispanic. Last year, that had increased to 12.8 percent.

“No school district can just push those students to the side because it is going to reflect on your report card. And that is the way it should be, because we have to educate all students,” Hathorn said.

Those statistics have forced the district to make changes to accommodate the Hispanic students. Translators are available for the students and their parents, and many signs and forms are bilingual.

Cultural sensitivity training also is offered to all students.

“One of the things we require of students going into Kirkmere is to take six weeks of Spanish, starting in the third grade. That’s third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. So we understand that the enrollment of Spanish speaking students is coming more to Youngstown. So we are training all the students for that,” Hathorn said.

The east side has the fastest growing Hispanic population. East High School and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary have seen the strongest increases in Hispanic enrollment.

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