Students at Whetstone High School, particularly in recent years, can point to locations around the globe as the place where they or their parents came from.

Now, flags hanging in the school cafeteria and custom-made banners at the main entrances reflect that.

"We wanted to find a way to be able to make these students feel comfortable and welcome," Principal Janet Routzong said.

Whetstone is in its fourth year as what is called a "sheltered-site school," which has greatly added to the diversity of the student population that already was in place.

At such schools, "sheltered content" in math, science and social studies offers the same standards as in regular courses, but taught at a level appropriate for those learning English, and by teachers qualified in both the subject and in English as a Second Language.

"Instead of simply offering instruction on English fluency, as you might find at nonsheltered-site schools, a sheltered site like the one at Whetstone provides our new-American students with instruction in core grade-level content areas such as social studies, math and science with materials in their native language or at an easier level of reading, so they don't fall behind while they reach English fluency," said Scott J. Varner, executive director of strategic communications and public relations for Columbus City Schools.

Whetstone four years ago began absorbing students from Columbus Global Academy, in the former Brookhaven High School building, who had reached a sufficient level of English proficiency, Routzong said. That included an influx of dozens of students from places such as Nepal, Somalia and other nations.

"With that, we wanted to do something to really embrace the diversity we were getting," Routzong said.

A spring event called Night of Culture accomplishes that in one way, but Routzong said she wanted something more visible. That led to around 30 international flags being hung in the cafeteria, as well as banners, with a Whetstone emblem in the center surrounded by those same flags, at the school's entryways.

The banners, one in the entrance from the south parking lot and another in the lobby off the main entrance, were created at the Flag Lady's Flag Store.

"We get a lot of feedback, a lot of comments on it," Routzong said. "We needed to do something in our lobby area that showed the diversity here.

"That flag represents the cultures of the student body, the various cultures. It also represents unity."

"Initially, our flags represented all of the nationalities when the sheltered site opened," said Dustin DeWolfe, an English as a Second Language instructor who is among four faculty members and two assistants involved with the students in that program.

"Overall, they do like that they are represented," said Katrisha Tenor, an ESL social-studies teacher.

"What I will say is it is important to our kids to be accepted and included," DeWolfe said. "They need to feel welcome in the school, because if you don't feel welcome, how can you learn?"

Teachers in the sheltered-site program use the flags to get students from those countries to translate the words that appear on some of them or discuss the symbols included, he added.

"Students love to be the expert," DeWolfe said.

"They like seeing their flags, they really do," Routzong said. "I think it makes them feel good to say to other people, 'That's the flag where I come from. Where's the flag where you come from?' It just simply says a lot about the culture in our building."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1