Virtual support added for ESL students

District makes sure English Language learners don't fall behind
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 6:13 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Taking classes virtually is going to be challenging for all students. But for some still learning the English language, the time away from teachers and friends could mean they’ll be less immersed in the language.

Maria Lopez is going into her sophomore year at Galax High School. She just moved to Galax from Honduras a year ago.

“The food is very different,” Lopez said.

While she jokes about getting used to meals in the United States, one of her biggest challenges moving here has been learning the language.

It’s going to be complicated to keep up with ESL (English as a Second Language) studies and other school work because online classes aren’t the same as being in school, Lopez said.

But the district is working to keep students like Lopez from falling behind.

“Our students are going to continue learning; it’s just going to look different. It’s going to feel different, and it’s going to be at a different pace,” English Learners Program Coordinator Elizabeth Stringer-Nunley said.

About 18 percent of the students at Galax City Public Schools are in the English Learners Program; that’s more than 200 students in the district.

To help those students succeed, the district has invested in more resources this fall.

One of those resources is an online program called Get Ready that teaches beginner English.

“We have log-in accounts for all of our newcomer students here at the high school to be able to use that program,” Stringer-Nunley said.

Teachers will also be meeting students virtually every day.

“We plan to touch base with students and lay eyes on them five days a week to make sure that they are engaged and on track and make sure that they are completing assignments,” Stringer-Nunley said.

It’s going to be different, but teachers and students say they’re up for the challenge.

“When I have a goal, all I do is think about achieving it,” Lopez said.

She said she hopes to learn more English this year and continue with her studies in school.

Galax City Public Schools will start 100 percent virtual this year, with classes beginning on Sept. 8.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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