Crossing language barriers – Language Magazine


With approximately 7,200 students speaking 20 different languages, our district needs technological tools that support its diverse student body and families. Until last year, we used standard postal mail for most of our communications with parents, with some announcements being delivered through social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook) and email.

With stamps costing 55 cents each multiplied by 7,200 students, sending these papers several times a year has added up quickly. We also needed a system that could help us cross language barriers and accurately translate messages that were sent home. Finally, we wanted to make sure that all communications were secure and that our platform would integrate with PowerSchool, our Student Information System (SIS).

We found what we were looking for: a unified communications resource that offers a safe and secure platform to handle all school-to-home communications. We put it in place just before the pandemic and immediately began to see the benefits of our decision. Here are three:

1) No more language barriers
When your student body speaks 20 different languages, some families may have difficulty trying to interpret your messages. To help, we needed a communications platform that would accurately translate the messages we were distributing, then ensure those messages reached home and parents understood the information we were sharing. Knowing that students whose parents are involved and informed tend to achieve higher levels of achievement in school, this was not a gap we were willing to leave open. Fortunately, our platform has supported the varied number of languages ​​that we have in our district, with its translation services which are very appealing to us.

2) Secure delivery of documents
All eyes are on safety and security right now, and delivering documents electronically presents a unique set of challenges that we have been able to overcome through our communications platform. We send out three to five mailings per year that include student bills, state test results, and other important documents. The only platform that allows variable-length documents in the main file, ParentSquare’s secure document delivery allows districts to define their own templates and includes text, app, and email notifications that reach families in their preferred language and modality. The secure platform also generates a separate PDF file of the documents for parents who have not received them and allows us to print and post these “missed” documents, ensuring 100% deliverability and fairness.

3) Not just “blowing” information
Having a platform that meets all of the district parent’s communication needs has been a godsend. Our parent surveys, permissions and secure documents are all shared on the platform, which also allows parents to sign up for appointment times and opens up two-way communications with these people.

We are no longer content with simply disseminating information. This is especially useful for parents who have multiple school children in the district, who previously used apps like Remind 101 and SignUpGenius for dating. Now everything is in one place.

Today, all of our parent communications are done on our communication platform. We may text, create social media posts, or use other forms of communication to reach parents. This is certainly a long term solution for us and one that we will continue to refine and learn to use more effectively for the 2021-2022 school year.

Melissa Deavers-Lowie is the Director of Communications and Community Engagement and David Lesich is the Director of Data Services at Portage Township Schools in Indiana.

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