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IWC Staff and Volunteers Extend Communication Efforts

During this period of remote learning and the ongoing consideration of when and how to reopen schools, the flow of communications to parents and staff has increased significantly. The importance and urgency of some messages has also increased. Most recently, surveys were emailed to families and staff to assess how their experiences have been during the first quarter of this school year.  

Many people read and respond to surveys online, but there are numerous CHCCS families who cannot do so, largely due to language barriers. That’s where the extraordinary team of translators and interpreters from the International Welcome Center (IWC) step up again and again.

Helen Atkins, English Learner and Dual Language Coordinator, orchestrates the efforts among her staff of translators and interpreters when a district message goes out to families and staff. “Since COVID hit, we have had to really become more efficient in how we handle district communications requests,” Atkins said. “Thankfully we launched our Qualtrics ticketing system in February, so we were better prepared, and it allowed us to ‘react’ in half the time.”

Atkins explained, “In the ‘old days’ with a Google Form, Sandra (Pereira) had to access each request and send the documents and messages to each interpreter or contractor.” 

When there were incomplete requests or gaps, Pereira needed to track down the missing pieces before she could assign the tasks to an interpreter. “With Qualtrics, requesters cannot complete the process without all of the information in place (e.g. a phone number or the document that needs translation), so there is not the additional clarifying and verifying of the request,” Atkins said. “Additionally, Qualtrics sends the requests directly to the appropriate interpreter, so that part of the process is super quick. For example, if the request is for Karen, the request goes directly to Loyal. If it's Burmese, it goes directly to Mai Mai. If it's Spanish, it goes to Sandra and Blanca.”

“It's a team effort and we learn from each new experience and build upon them,” Atkins said. “With the surveys, we have done some pen and paper distributions at Food for Students sites, including the superintendent search surveys and the first remote learning check-in survey. But for those first surveys, we had to meet as a team to think about logistics. Once we had all of the logistics in place, the interpreters (and other IWC staff) went to FFS sites to help distribute. With the current surveys, we are asking interpreters to go in and complete the surveys via Panaroma in the language of the respondent so it will accurately reflect the level of participation from a particular language.” 

“The interpreters and IWC staff are incredibly responsive,” Atkins said.  “Over the years we have all come to realize that interpretation/translation may involve a lot more family and community outreach, and the work is certainly not restricted to the translation/interpretation alone.”

“I love this about our team,” Atkins continued. “They are a remarkable group of people whose priorities are always centered around students and their families. This goes for all interpreters, whether full-time, part-time or contracted. I was incredibly moved in the spring when our whole team (including our contracted interpreters) were willing to join our team meetings and learn new platforms, like Screencastify, and then use those very platforms to make tutorials for parents. They knew the critical nature of the work and they absolutely had a positive impact on the way we reached families.”

Survey distribution Although the IWC staff invest numerous hours before the surveys ever reach their families, the work by the Food for Students (FFS) staff and volunteers also plays an important role in making sure as many voices are heard as possible. 

CHCCS Special Projects Manager, Christine Cotton, said of the collaboration between FFS and the IWC, “To make sure that all our families had the opportunity to complete the survey and to break down any language barriers, volunteers, along with CHCCS interpreters, were deployed to the FFS meal sites with paper surveys and scannable links to the online survey. Having the volunteers and interpreters reach out to the families yielded additional survey responses and gave the families an opportunity to connect with new and friendly faces.