WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — This school year, virtual learning challenges are inevitable, but for some students whose second language is English, it’s even harder.
Hispanics make up 29 percent of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and Spanish is one of the most prevalent home languages for English-learning students out of the additional 80 languages.
Additional guidance is needed for these students tackling distance learning, and the school district provides translators through Canvas, a virtual learning application, and other online sources.
“And what we do and our team does — and a lot of teachers have mastered this — is how can they immerse that student both in English in that Canvas course but also bring in these additional supports. That could be Google Translate and Canvas has an application called the Immersive Reader,” said David Sisk, director of English Learner Programs for WSFCS.
Sisk says while they do have challenges, they are identifying the learning level each English-learning student identifies with from the beginner to advanced level. There are district employees who are a part of a designated care team who reach out in a more hands-on approach to bridge the communication gap.
“Those teams, they do have multiple ways that they can try to interact with the family whether it’s through phone or through a virtual meeting or whether it’s making a home visit, and of course taking in all of the social distancing precautions, but those teams are making those home visits,” Sisk said.
One of the biggest challenges with virtual learning and English-learning students is communicating with families.
“It can be communication about, ‘Where do I pick up my laptop? How do I get my hotspot?’ So we have a lot of bilingual staff in schools right now, however, we also have district-level interpreters,” Sisk said.
The district says many of these students’ parents are frontline works and cannot be with them during virtual learning, making these various support systems in place even more important.