While students in Nashua navigate the challenges associated with remote learning, extra assistance is now being offered to children who speak English as a second language.
“Nashua is the most diverse community in the state, and our school district has dozens of languages that are spoken by students. Our (English Language Learner) population has really struggled with remote learning,” said Mike Apfelberg, president of the United Way of Greater Nashua.
His agency is partnering with the Nashua School District to create an opportunity for some in-person learning for ELL students. Currently Nashua schools are fully remote with the exception of some younger grade levels and special education students.
There are about 1,350 ELL students in the Nashua School District, with additional students being monitored. About 25 ELL teachers are teaching remotely.
“In-person learning is what is needed for this population,” Apfelberg said.
The United Way of Greater Nashua is creating a computer training and teaching laboratory at its facility that will be up and running in about two weeks. The agency’s conference room is being converted to allow for six student workstations and one teaching station so city teachers can hold in-person classes with ELL students, according to Apfelberg.
“I wish we had 50 classrooms, but we only have one. I guarantee it will be used every day,” he said.
Each workstation will have a computer and plexiglass dividers so that students can remain socially distanced, he said.
The program is being funded with a $146,000 CARES Act grant awarded to the United Way of Greater Nashua.
The money will also be used to support the development of learning modules for technology platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom and more, which will be translated into a variety of languages such as Swahili, Spanish, Portuguese and Rohingya, according to Apfelberg.
Nashua families are reaching out to the United Way on a daily basis seeking assistance for tasks such as connecting to the internet, logging into Google Classroom and asking for Wi-Fi hotspots, he said.
This new partnership with the school district, as well as the new classroom, are critical initiatives to ensure that Nashua’s ELL youth are not left behind during the pandemic, added Apfelberg.