New York State district’s navigate language barriers for students doing virtual learning

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GREECE, NY (WROC)— Overcoming language barriers with virtual learning is one of the many topics that educators are looking to solve as students make it through a remote learning school year.

Members of the Rochester City School District’s board of education say low access to technology and unstable home environments are making finding a solution to language barriers that much harder.

“Parents are struggling to do their best to provide for the education of their children but yet they got to put food on the table,” said Van White, President of the Rochester City School District’s board of education.

“In the educational setting teachers and paraprofessional can’t be there because of COVID. We can be there through some extent through technology, but that’s a significant challenges to this district,” said White.

The Greece Central School District has over 40 different languages represented by nearly 700 students.

They held open forums with families and translators in the summer, but say with students back in school, they are using online tool to ensure students and families aren’t falling behind

“Break down that assignment into pieces. Focus on the vocabulary pre teach vocab re teach so that in the larger setting students have what I like to call the Velcro to be able to latch onto their new learning,” said Annamarie Falzarano, coordinator of world language for GCSD.

“We want to make sure that there’s conceptual understanding around the lesson so virtually teachers are embedding links to various online resources so students can read a piece of information in the home language and then be able to respond in English,” said Falzarano.

The district is utilizing online tools like translated books, telephone interpreters and live translating programs like google translator.

Currently, students with English as a second language are doing four days of in school instruction during the week and one day hybrid to ensure they are getting one on one time but leaders with the Greece district say communication with parents is key to make sure information isn’t lost in language barriers.

“But now more than ever we want to make sure that we are having that parent voice we want to be sure that they have an ability to communicate with us,” said Falzarano.

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