In response to demand for translation of the meetings, the school district will now work with the Weymouth Educational Telecommunications Corporation to bring multilingual closed-captioning to meeting recordings.
A school district in Massachusetts has launched a closed-captioning translation pilot program for school committee meeting recordings. This week, Weymouth School District’s School committee chair Lisa Belmarsh and superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple announced that Weymouth Public Schools struck a partnership with the Weymouth Educational Telecommunications Corporation (WETC) to implement the program for all future meetings.
The program comes in response to the pandemic, as well as in connection with the Return to School Racial Equity Subcommittee. As part of the program, School Committee meetings will provide closed captioning in English for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing, though the announcement did not mention use of any Sign Language like ASL. The meetings will also provide a translation of the meeting in Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic — the school district’s most common non-English languages — within 24 hours of the meeting, with the hope to expand access to community members so that students and parents can receive and understand information shared by the district.
“It’s essential that parents and guardians receive information from the district so that they can help their children get the right technology, support their child’s school work, have the ability to make informed choices and get the support they need for a successful school year,” said Belmarsh. “To accomplish this, the district identified an increased need to have the information translated so that parents and guardians who do not speak English can access the most current information being shared during our school committee meetings. WETC eagerly stepped up to the request and is an essential partner in this endeavor to make information available to more people within our community.”
WETC had previously offered closed captioning services on local municipal meetings that were recorded and posted onto its website throughout the past year, but has recently shifted also to include translation of captions into additional languages.
“Once the School Committee and Administration voiced the need for a more inclusive way to broadcast and share meetings, WETC wanted to assist in any way possible,” said WETC Director Jeff Cummings. “We are extremely excited to see the positive impact that this pilot program will have on ensuring everyone in the district receives the information they need to succeed.”
Translated meetings will only be available on WETC’s On Demand video player, not on TV broadcast nor as livestream during meetings. The meetings are expected to be viewable with multilingual closed captioning in under 24 hours.
To create closed captioning on the recordings, WETC uses its video server company, Telvue. The Telvue server processes the audio file and the computer then generates the text for the captioning in English. Once the captioning is created in English, the server then transcribes the English captions into the three additional languages. The Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic translations may be delayed as the English captions are processed first. Additionally, Telvue also offers an English transcript of the recording, which can be found in the lower, right hand corner of the video player.
“In the time of COVID-19, the process of disseminating information to the public in a timely and equitable fashion is as important as ever,” Superintendent Curtis-Whipple said. “To ensure that our students stay up-to-date with important information and understand our new safety protocols, we must be able to share these details with all of our demographics regardless of what language barrier they may have. Adding Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic translations allows us to be more inclusive for non-English speaking, deaf and hard of hearing communities.”