Northland News

Columbus North International School

More kids, more languages, more energy all evident

Seventh-and eighth-graders from immersion programs arrive at Clintonville-area school

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Middle school Chinese teacher Yeh-Fen Chin leads an introductory lesson on the first day of classes Aug. 21 at Columbus North International School. The school, housed in the old Columbus North High School building on Arcadia Avenue, has added seventh- and eighth-graders to the student population for the first time this year.
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Students returning last week to what had been Columbus International High School found themselves in the same building for the first time in the program's three-year history.

"They already know where everything is," Principal Ameer Kim El-Mallawany said, after things had quieted down on a hectic first day of the 2013-14 academic year.

That does not mean things are same-old, same-old at the former North High School.

For one thing, the building on Arcadia Avenue has been renamed Columbus North International School. The new name reflects the major change, which is the addition of seventh- and eighth-graders from the Columbus City Schools' three K-6 language-immersion programs.

The arrival of middle school students from Ecole Kenwood on the Northwest Side, Columbus Spanish Immersion Academy in North Linden and Fifth Avenue International School in the Short North roughly doubled the population at Columbus North International School.

"If you walk through the hallways, you hear even more languages, you see even more kids," El-Mallawany said. "It's a beautiful thing. You could just feel the energy. It's different, it's busier.

"We had 400 kids wandering around wondering where to go, but we also had 400 kids who knew where to go."

El-Mallawany, 30, has been principal of the school from its inception, initially on the campus of the Fort Hayes Career Center and then in the former Clinton Middle School on Karl Road before it moved to its current home last year.

Another new addition coming to Columbus North International School will be a journalism program that will begin in classrooms around the middle of September.

Nicole Kraft, whose son, Danny, started seventh grade at the school last week, is a journalism instructor at Ohio State University. She also was on the task force that led to the creation of the international high school program for Columbus City Schools.

The Clintonville resident said last week that she applied for a grant through OSU's Serving Learning Initiative for a project that will involve eight to 10 of her journalism students along with other undergraduates studying French, Spanish and Chinese, helping international school youngsters learn to write news stories and translate them into various languages.

"I'm a big believer in journalism education at the scholastic level," Kraft said. "It's not that everyone should want to become a journalist. I believe that the skills we learn as journalists ... are skills that are lacking in a lot of disciplines."

Young people who have learned interviewing skills and developed the ability to write clearly and concisely are "more employable in the real world," Kraft said.

The first of what will be three online editions of the student newspaper should be out by late October, with versions in all three languages. Content will be updated on a continuing basis, according to Kraft, who said her students are looking forward to the mentoring experience.

"They love journalism," Kraft said of her students. "They want to be journalists. They want to share journalism with other people. They're getting the opportunity to take this passion and let other people see how they got this passion.

"They want to pay it forward."

"We're looking forward to it," Principal El-Mallawany said of the journalism program.

Kraft said getting Ohio State to participate in some way with the school district's international program has been a goal of hers and others involved in its creation from the beginning.

"We were desperate for that opportunity, so I kind of felt like I had to put my money where my mouth was," she said.

The students arriving from the language-intense elementary schools will no longer have the immersion experience interrupted, Kraft said.

"This program is going to help them stay immersed in the language that's going to benefit them the rest of their lives," she said.

"Our program has always been very much like a continuation of the immersion schools," El-Mallawany said. "It really offers an opportunity for our kids to dig in a little sooner and at a more-rigorous level.

"What's amazing, too, is that our feeder schools attract similarly diverse population from all parts of the city. It's almost as if the family feel is because the people are from so many different areas."

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