Best Practices for Educating Latinx Students During the COVID-19 Crisis from School Districts Across the U.S.
By: Samantha Ader
My Cuban grandfather was a professor, and he would frequently talk with me about the values that brought him to the US; public education and the opportunity to pursue a better future for his family topped the list. But as I got older, I saw that those things weren’t always as present and equitable as he had imagined – there was a real disparity in educational opportunity for Latino-Americans in my own community. Specifically, despite Latinx students making up 35 percent of my local school district’s population, I saw a lack of Latinos in positions of influence so, after more than a decade in education, I decided to run for my local school board. In April 2019, I was elected to the board of Illinois’ Community Consolidated School District 15.
My Latinx background provided a much-needed perspective and advocate for Latinx students in my district. Now, due to COVID-19, advocacy for Latinx students is even more critical. Sadly, Latinx students and families are the hardest hit by the pandemic and financial crisis. School districts across the country are facing the same challenges, and we are learning from each other’s successes and mistakes every single day. Since none of us are doing things exactly the same way, I want to highlight three heavily Latinx districts from across the country and how they are helping English Language Learners, as well as other Latinx and students of color during this time.
Community Consolidated School District 15 (CCSD15), northwest suburbs of Chicago, Ill.
My district is home to more than 12,000 students across 20 schools, and these students speak 70+ different languages in their homes.
- Families can only succeed in this pandemic if they have the information they need. I’m proud that CCSD15 shares all announcements about school closures, updates about distance learning, and many learning resources in Spanish.
- Bilingual parent liaisons have made more than 1,000 calls to district families to conduct wellness checks and connect them to school or partner organization resources as necessary.
- We conducted a technology needs survey (in English and Spanish) to identify the technology needs of our families, including those families with multiple children. The district quickly prepared and distributed Chromebooks and mobile hotspots (paid for by the district) to ensure students without these resources have equitable access to distance learning.
- More details: https://www.ccsd15.net/Page/9263
Denver Public Schools, Denver, Colo.
Denver Public Schools is responsible for educating approximately 93,000 students, 54 percent of whom are Latinx.
- Families can pick up breakfast, lunch and dinner at more than 20 schools across the district. For people who can’t make it to a school, the district delivers meals to pick-up points across the city. We all know that a hungry student isn’t a focused or healthy student, so Denver makes this a top priority.
- The entire DPS COVID-19 resource site is available in 10 languages to accommodate English Language Learners and their families. Additionally, students enrolled in bilingual and English Language Development classes will continue to meet with their teachers electronically.
- DPS does not currently have computers for every student, but it is actively sourcing more computers and providing them as available.
- More details: https://www.dpsk12.org/coronavirus/
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade County, Fla.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools is the fourth-largest school district in the U.S. More than two-thirds of its students are Laxtinx.
- As with CCSD15, they prioritize the flow of information; their entire Coronavirus site, including Instructional Continuity plan papers and videos, is available in English, Spanish, and Haitian-Creole. The superintendent also conducts Instagram Live press conferences in English, Spanish and Creole.
- Miami-Dade County Public Schools has set up six mobile device distribution centers to assist students with mobile devices to complete their school assignments. These centers are open every day and will remain open until further notice.
- Thanks to education platforms with built-in translators, English Language Learners receive the same services as students proficient in English. Teachers across the district also continue to use ESOL strategies to support the education of English Language Learner students.
- More details: http://covid19.dadeschools.net/#!/fullWidth/3097
Because of demographics, socioeconomic status, and population density, every district will face unique challenges during this global crisis, so the solutions CCSD15, Denver Public Schools, or Miami-Dade County have created may not fit every school district. However, I know one step that is crucial across the country, especially for those communities with multilingual students: Keep open lines of communication between families, students, teachers, and community partners. The needs of our multilingual students may change quickly amidst the crisis and after, so our communities must be connected, albeit virtually.
I miss seeing parents, students and educators in-person at meetings and in schools. I can’t wait until we can be together again for the benefit of our students.
About Samantha Ader
Samantha Ader is Latinos for Education’s Director of Operations. In this role, she manages the growing team’s internal operations for the organization to effectively work toward its mission. Samantha brings more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising and marketing in the education sector. She also serves as an elected board of education member for Illinois Community Consolidated School District 15.