RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – In the Washoe County School District, there are programs under unique pressure to keep schools open.

Education officials say many students have been impacted by remote learning and while some students may like the idea, for newcomers, including refugees, the classroom is the best place.

“Our students learning English as a second language really struggled when the schools were closed,” said Holly Underwood, Family Liaison Officer with the English Language Development Department (ELDD).

According to Underwood, the district has what are called “newcomer schools,” which provide English and cultural support for students. These schools are Hug High School, Earl Wooster High School, Sparks High School, Pine Middle School, and Sparks Middle School.

“When we went to this really restrictive, we all went into lockdown, we lost a lot of access to our students,” said ELDD Principal Megan Waugh. “Unfortunately many of these students were newcomer students or English learning students who had to do with everything from lack of technology at home to parents not quite having the ability to to access packages or work with their students because everything is so new… Our education system is very different from that of many other countries.

WCSD has 9,368 hundred learners of English or EL.

Underwood says the programs have grown since the borders reopened.

“With the Afghan evacuations that have happened, we’re seeing a lot of refugees coming in and going into schools, and then we have some of the unaccompanied minors as well,” Underwood said.

In an effort to make up for last year, ELDD decided to take a stronger approach. According to Waugh, many schools will integrate students into general education classes.

“It’s so important for them to be in an environment where English is spoken all the time around them,” Waugh said. “They are not retired; they are not separated and within a small group of non-English speakers.

The district has seen a huge improvement since EL students have been back in class every day and while it is working hard to keep that going, the pandemic is always unpredictable.

Earlier this month, one of five newcomer schools, Hug HS, transitioned to temporary distance learning, the good news is the department had a plan.

“Teachers really worked with staff and families and our family liaison to make sure students who couldn’t access the content if it was online then had time once they got back in person to work with content and do all the missing assignments and things like that,” Waugh said.

The ELDD is currently experiencing a slight shortage of EL teachers, particularly at the secondary level. They need 8 certified positions and 3 classified positions (teaching assistants).

“The Washoe County District offers teacher endorsement, we have a cohort that runs throughout the school year,” Waugh said. “We work with UNR on graduating students with their ELAD. We also have site leaders; their aim is to train general education teachers so that the language is also part of their daily learning.

“It’s all on deck for everything,” Underwood said. “Everyone is doing everything they can to support students so they are not left behind. It has been a challenge, but compared to students who are at home trying to learn remotely, they have the support. »

Copyright 2022 KOLO. All rights reserved.