What began as a pilot program between VOYCE and the Spring Branch Independent School District earlier this year has gained traction during the pandemic, with dozens of students making requests for remote interpreter services.
As the pandemic has put a strain on school districts nationwide, many schools are seeking language service providers (LSPs) to help non-English speaking (NES) students manage the challenges of remote learning. One district in Texas has been working with VOYCE Inc. to deploy on-demand language interpreter services to help teachers and staff communicate more effectively with non-English-speaking students and families.
Earlier this year, VOYCE worked with Spring Branch Independent School District on a limited pilot project using VOYCE interpreter services to connect families with teachers, social service providers and administrators. Spring Branch ISD began distance learning in March after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered schools, universities, and businesses temporarily closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
VOYCE’s on-demand language voice and video interpretation services connect users with interpreters remotely, eliminating the need for in-person interpretation. VOYCE’s team of interpreters speak more than 220 languages and dialects including American Sign Language (ASL). The app is available for smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.
“Family engagement plays a key role in academic success and this tool fills a huge gap. We have so many families that do not speak English. By helping better connect teachers with families, and removing the language barrier, we will be able to improve the educational experience while keeping parents engaged in their children’s academic progress,” said Jennifer Blaine, superintendent of Spring Branch ISD. “In the remote learning environment we saw with COVID-19 in the spring, making these connections with parents in their own language was vital in helping students be successful. We know this will continue to be important with our new school year now underway.”
With more than 45 campuses, Spring Branch ISD educates a diverse student population of about 35,000 students in the Houston area. In a pilot with Thornwood Elementary School covering April through the end of June, district staff used the VOYCE app for 28 requests for interpreter services, spanning about 183 minutes to enable parent-teacher conferences and other communications. Interpreters were used for conversations in a variety of languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
“Parents really appreciated it when teachers were calling with an interpreter available so they could discuss their children’s progress in their own language,” said Linda Buchman, SBISD community relations officer. “Our families speak over 70 different languages. It was extremely helpful to have this tool to check in with parents and communicate information about their child’s academics and other services.”
VOYCE works with a variety of industries to break down language barriers and create connections through on-demand translators, including education, health care facilities and hospitals.
“Our nation’s educators are facing numerous challenges with remote learning during this global COVID-19 pandemic, but language barriers should not be one of them,” VOYCE CEO Andrew Royce said. “As schools face a new reality and look at in-person and distance learning programs, our technology gives teachers, administrators and other key personnel easy access to real-time interpreters through video or voice to provide the power to engage with parents and families.”