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Red Deer Public school district adds Arabic on lunch menus

Lunch menus at Fairview Elementary School are now bilingual — English and Arabic.

The recent move by the school was an effort to reach out to the school’s diverse community.

Nearly half of the students at the school in Riverside Meadows are English as a Second Language learners.

Among the 113 ESL students, 20 different languages are spoken with Arabic the second most common after English. The menu is being translated into five languages to respond to the needs of all families.

In a statement posted to the Red Deer Public School District’s website said, the district is a welcoming and inclusive district that is open to all students regardless of abilities, disabilities, culture or faith.

“As such, we welcome families who are new to our country, providing them with quality education. Many of these families have fled terrible situations because not only do they want to better their lives, they seek a better future for their children. So they come to Canada as settlers, as have the ancestors of many Canadians.”

“In all our schools, regardless of the need, we want to be responsive to our families. In doing so, we have developed a menu that reflects the diversity within the school.”

The menus are not translated in French but the district said more than 10 per cent of their students are registered in French Immersion.

On Friday, the school held a Literacy and Numeracy Day event in the gymnasium. The book Red Parka Mary by Peter Eyvindson was read, in English, for students.

“The excitement and joy in our school was off the charts,” said Kimberley Walker, Fairview Elementary School principal. “Students were building new friendships with peers of all ages.”

At the end of the day, students returned to the gym and spent 15 more minutes reading their favourite book.

“Red Deer is becoming increasingly diverse. We are a welcoming and inclusive community. We celebrate diversity as it adds to the richness of our community. Red Deer Public Schools is about instilling values, beliefs and character within our students and we are reflective of the community we serve by welcoming and being open to all.”

The menus are part of a provincially-funded nutrition program, which provides healthy breakfast, snack and lunch options to all students. The school was chosen because of the socio-economic needs of the community. The Alberta government invested $10 million into the school lunch program, providing food for 49 schools across the province.

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