Schools in the Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield areas started back up just two weeks ago and educators are already facing challenges in communication with students and families.
About 8,200 out of the 150,000 plus students in the city of Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover require language services.The number of non-English speaking students is small right now; however the numbers are growing and educators are struggling to keep up.
More than 1,300 students in Richmond schools have a first language that is something other than English. Most speak Spanish, but languages spoken overall range from Arabic to German.
There are not enough Spanish-speaking staff members at Huguenot High School, where 14.4% of students are of Hispanic-origin.
Most of the schools in the system offer written material in Spanish and websites have translation functions. But, face-to-face communication has been harder for officials.
Richmond Public Schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby addressed the issue of the lack of interpreters in Richmond schools.
“We recognize that our lack of interpreters is an issue, and finding creative solutions has been a top priority,” Richmond Public Schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby wrote in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We want to communicate effectively with all of our students and parents.”
School officials opened a Welcome Center in Henrico in 2006. Students who require language services are referred to the center, which helps lower miscommunication between parents, students and area schools.
Henrico schools will have more than 2,700 students who require languages services. These students come from 95 countries and speak more than 77 languages.
There are at least 60 first languages, other than English, spoken in Chesterfield County schools with 4,000 students speaking non-English languages.
Students in Richmond schools speak more than 40 languages.
School officials are pushing to make accommodations for students whose first language is not English. Keeping up has been hard for most of the schools, but are trying to address the immediate issue of communication.