Navigating virtual classes during the non-traditional start to the school year can be challenging for all students and families in Huntsville City Schools, but especially for those who speak English as a second language.
“If it’s exhausting and challenging for our native English speakers, imagine how it feels if you are trying to not just navigate the language along with learning all these new things,” said Ann Marie Batista, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Coordinator for the district.
Maria Lopez, Immigrant Parent Liaison for the district, works directly with families helping them with whatever needs they may have, like enrolling their students and interpreting information. Lopez says members of the ESOL team are working to address any new challenges families face with virtual learning.
"Problem number one was the language, problem number two was technology, but in these problems, we have found solutions and we have been helping them with all these difficulties," Lopez said.
To help Hispanic families, Batista says the Alabama Hispanic Association is offering virtual sessions every Thursday night to provide support in Spanish on the school’s virtual website to help with parent involvement. Depending on volunteer availability, tutors may also be available for individual student needs.
The ESOL program has also received a grant to help connect more families with WiFi hotspots to remedy the internet connection difficulty.
Lopez says that the return to in-person class this week will take a lot of pressure off of parents who have been struggling to help their students with online classes.
"I think that now that we return to school that will help Hispanic families a lot because students will be able to see the teacher; they will be able to demonstrate how to do their homework, they will be able to explain the material better and they can go home already knowing how to do their homework," Lopez said.