RPS aims to help Spanish-speaking parents get better connected

Richmond Public Schools has a new family language phone line for each school.
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:20 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - At River City Middle School, there’s a push to reach every student, no matter the language.

“Truly believing in equity, you know it’s just like, if you are here, we are here to serve you,” said Jacquelyn Murphy-Braxton, River City Middle School principal.

The principal here says more than 50% of the student population is Hispanic.

All around the building you can find signs in both English and Spanish.

It’s one of several approaches to break down language barriers.

“A lot of schools focus on how do we translate a document and get it to families so they can read it, but then they forget that families need to communicate with us too,” said Luis Martinez Jimenez, RPS Language Justice coordinator.

He says 96% of the division’s English learners speak Spanish.

To reach them and others, RPS has a new family language phone line for each school.

There’s an interpreter on demand to facilitate conversations for parents wanting information.

The division is also launching WhatsApp groups with video messages to help.

“To focus more on the audio messages and the images so that families can very easily hear what’s happening in their home language and also get a beautiful image every time they get an announcement,” said Martinez Jimenez.

Back at River City Middle, there’s also a focus on bilingual staff.

The principal and vice principal both speak Spanish.

The school also has a number of bilingual teachers.

“It’s important to connect with families because that way they can be a part of their child’s education. They want to be able to help. (They) just don’t know how to,” said Ana Estrada-Williams, River City Middle School assistant principal.