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Ritenour creates a space for international students

Melissa Lemus (left) of El Salvador and Diana Gomez of Mexico have lunch together at Hoech Middle School on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. An influx of Central American children prompted the Ritenour School District to create an "International Welcome Center" where two classrooms serve middle and high school students receiving intensive English language studies. Photo by Robert Cohen,

Webster University will use a new $2.7 million federal grant to certify 120 local public school educators in teaching English language learners.

The university's School of Education will train teachers in three districts over the next five years: St. Louis city, Parkway and Ritenour.

The three districts together only had 90 teachers certified to teach English as a second language at the time the grant application was filed, even though the districts have thousands of English language learners, according to a university news release.

For example, St. Louis enrolled more than 700 new English language learners last year alone, bringing its English language learner enrollment to more than 2,700, according to the release. English language learners primarily include immigrant and refugee children.

“We know that due to the rich diversity in our region, there is a need for qualified teachers in English as a second language,” said Elizabeth Stroble, president of Webster University, in a statement. “This grant allows Webster University and our partners to assure that English Learners develop the skills they need to be successful.”

Webster also partnered with International Institute of St. Louis and St. Louis Mosaic Project on this grant.

In 2012, Webster University received another $1.9 federal million grant that allowed the university to train and certify more than 80 Kansas City Public School teachers in English as a second language.