The number of students who cannot speak English in the Mesa Unified School District is growing, so the district wants to step up services to their moms and dads.
Federal law requires schools to provide services so all parents can understand what goes on in their children’s schools. But in the past, Mesa schools have had no consistent, districtwide plan to address their needs, district general counsel Tom Pickrell told members of the district’s governing board Tuesday.
“(Schools) used their own people. But not all schools have people who can interpret, especially now that we’re getting an increase in Russian and in the Middle Eastern (languages),” said Irene Frklich, director of the district’s English Language Acquisition Department. “Sometimes we feel like we have taken more time than we should to provide the services.”
So the district plans to hire a bilingual interpreter services coordinator to find interpreters for the 52 foreign languages and various American Indian languages that are spoken by district families.
Frklich will hold a formal training session for the interpreters, whom the district will pay to assist with meetings such as parent-teacher conferences, she said.
“We’ll have to train them in things like, how do you sit (when you translate for someone)? What’s the difference between an interpreter and an advocate? And so forth,” she said.
The district also will automatically translate a list of documents such as field trip permission slips, transcripts and course catalogs into languages spoken by at least 5 percent of district parents.
Currently, the only language that meets that requirement is Spanish, which more than 20 percent of Mesa school district families speak at home, according to district data.
That means the 114 families who speak Vietnamese and the 83 families who speak Navajo will still depend on either English-speaking family and friends, or district translators, to understand the documents.
Arabic, Filipino and Russian are spoken by handfuls of families at some schools, too, according to district data.
There are many Chinese families in the school district, Frklich said, but most of those families speak fluent English, so they do not need interpretation services.