Craig Elementary touts home language diversity as net benefit for all

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis area continues to become more diverse every day, evidenced by the languages represented by kids in our elementary schools.

The kids at Craig Elementary in the Parkway North School District speak 23 different languages at home. It’s a sign of changing times.

“So we are a diverse school,” said David Duckworth, principal at Craig Elementary.

The district as a whole has 87 different home languages other than English. At Craig, that total fluctuates as families move in and out of the district, but the number is trending upward.

Aside from English and Spanish, Duckworth said some students speak European and Asian languages as well.

“We have a high Arabic population as well. We have students that speak Russian, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Korean; you name it, we have it,” he said.

Principal Duckworth said they have around 500 students at Craig. About 35 percent of them speak a language other than English at home. That puts extra pressure on staff at the school to teach them.

“What's unique about Craig is so many students are from Saudi Arabia, India, and Asian countries,” said Debra Cochran, a teacher at Craig Elementary.

The students’ classroom teachers also work with them on development skills. School staff said it’s a win for the English-speaking students as well because all of the cultures are learning about one another.

“It's made me a better father and leader. I’m connecting with students from all kinds of backgrounds and that is valuable,” Duckworth said. “We have a great team of staff that work with these individuals. Our (English language) teachers work with them and do services on a daily basis.”

Craig Elementary has a partnership with Boeing and Saint Louis University, who bring in new employees from overseas and that’s one of the reasons they have so many kids speaking different languages.