The Columbia public school district is preparing for its largest number of students whose native language is not English when school begins this fall.
The number of English-language learners, or ELL students, in the school district has risen steadily since 2008, said Jenifer Albright-Borts, the district's ELL coordinator.
In 2008, 517 ELL students enrolled in Columbia Public Schools, which increased to 592 in 2009. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that the district is preparing for 594 ELL students when school resumes Aug. 19. District enrollment was 17,419 last fall.
A limited knowledge of English often means students have a harder time in class. But the district also gains from the new cultures the students bring from their home countries, which include China, Iraq and South Korea.
"It also, without a doubt, puts a strain on the schools," said Dan Murphy, education coordinator at the Refugee and Immigration Services center in Columbia.
The academic success of ELL students largely depends on how well they read English or can learn to read English.