A mother arrives at a parent/teacher conference to discuss her kindergartener’s progress, however no interpreter is present and she has trouble fully understanding spoken English. A father has trouble correctly filling out a medical history and emergency contact form for his daughter and asks if he noted her allergy in the correct section. A grandparent receives a letter from a teacher regarding the discipline of her grandson, but is unable to ascertain the details of the behavior that led to the discipline, as her first language is Spanish.
As the school year is coming to a close, parents of students attending schools in the Milbridge area have been reflecting on changes in the local schools that honor translation and interpretation requests that were made throughout the year. Parents voiced concerns earlier this school year that some documents they were receiving from the school were offered only in English and often required a time-sensitive response. Some parents were also disappointed in the unavailability of interpreters for meetings and events at the schools.
After some communication, meetings, and letters with Milbridge area school representatives, schools in the district are increasingly sending information home to parents in a way that addresses each family’s preferred language—in response to the requests of “La Conexion Escolar”— an advocacy group led by local parents. School administrators have been very responsive to the parents’ concerns and requests. In fact, Maine School Administrative District #37 and Mano en Mano will be entering into an agreement for the 2014-2015 school year to provide a more formalized interpretation and translation system, with the recognition that it’s difficult for some rural school districts to have bilingual staff.
The schools have also begun translation of some larger documents, which will continue over the summer of 2014. These documents include a full translation of the student handbook and the schools’ policies and procedures. Also discussed at several “La Conexion Escolar” meetings was having schools keep some forms bilingual, such as those that contain emergency contact information or medical information, so they would be understood by Spanish and English speakers alike. Schools will work to encourage programs connected to the school to provide Spanish language documents as well (as one example, the company that takes school pictures could offer order forms in Spanish).
Last week, several parents met and changed the groups name from “La Conexion Escolar” (The School Connection) to “Hagamos el Cambio por Nuestros Hijos” (We’ll make changes happen for our children). We shall see what further changes are to come in the 2014-2015 school year!