Manatee County Schools offer tools for Spanish-speaking parents


Jenny Rodriguez is most often the person parents talk to when they call the Manatee County School District’s phone line for Spanish-speakers. (Photo: Provided by Debra Estes)

When students have problems at schools, parents can often intervene, working with teachers and administration to try to find solutions.

But what happens when a parent doesn’t speak English and cannot communicate with the school? Language barriers can make problems worse, as a student also loses an advocate who could help resolve a situation. 

In Manatee County, the school system has created a comprehensive communication plan that makes all the information that’s available in English also available in Spanish. This includes information on its website in Spanish, a Spanish-language Facebook page and advertising in Spanish.

The school system also set up a dedicated phone line for Spanish-speaking parents to use if they have questions or need information.

“I think what’s important is that we are working very hard to improve and expand … ways to reach our families and also help our Spanish-speaking students,” said Kevin Chapman, director of strategic planning and district initiatives at Manatee Schools. “It’s a real concerted effort and, I think, it’s been pretty successful so far.”

More: Read stories about the importance of digital access in Sarasota-Manatee.

While officials say there are about 90 different languages spoken in county schools, Latino students make up about 34% of the district’s population. School officials believe it is essential that the parents of these students are involved in their child’s education because it has been shown that the more engaged a parent is, the better the child performs in school. 

Geri Chaffee, an education advocate for Latinos and founder of Dreamers Academy, said Latino parents – a “consumer of educational services” – and schools – a “provider of educational services” – have different cultures but are aching to connect with one another.

She worked with Manatee schools on the effort and says what the county has done accomplishes that and she hopes it becomes a model for other school districts. 

“Latinos’ number one policy issue, consistently, is education. Number one. Above immigration, deportation, economics,” President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden, she said.

“So, you’ve got a community that’s desperate for their kids to do well in school, and then you’ve got a district that’s desperate for these kids to do well.”

More: Thousands of Sarasota-Manatee students lack the internet or equipment to learn from home

More: Telehealth services coming to six Manatee County schools

Chapman said the school system began working on how to better communicate with Latino parents last year, as the district worked on the strategic plan that was approved in September. He said among the goals was to both improve communication with parents and to improve diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

While those were the broad goals, it made sense that an effort be made to reach out to Latino families.

That need came into focus in August as the school system began planning its

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New coronavirus cases are the highest since mid-August in Sarasota and Manatee


The weekly number of new coronavirus infections is at the highest level in two months in both Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Each county had 386 new infections last week, the most since mid-August.

Manatee County had 105 new infections on Oct. 10 and 120 on Oct. 16. Before that, the last time the county had 100 new infections in a single day was in August.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 also is up in both counties.

Sarasota County had 42 COVID-19 patients in the hospital Sunday, the most since early September. Manatee had 27 COVID-19 patients Sunday, up from just 10 on September 10.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital is treating the bulk of the COVID-19 patients in the region. The hospital had 32 patients hospitalized with the disease Friday, compared with just 18 on September 29.

It is unclear if the increases are just blips, or part of a new upward trend. Each county is still well below the new infection and hospitalization numbers seen during the pandemic’s peak locally in July. And the number of tests coming back positive in each county continues to be below 5% on most days, although the positivity rate inched above that level twice last week in Manatee and once in Sarasota.

During the week of July 19 to 25 there were 872 new virus cases in Sarasota and 1,265 in Manatee. Sarasota had 145 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on July 28 and Manatee had 123.

Last week’s new case total was the most in Sarasota County since the week of August 9 to 15, when there were 478. In Manatee County, last week’s total was the most since August 16 to 22, when there were 388 cases.

The weekly number of new cases has risen for three weeks in a row in Manatee, and for two weeks in Sarasota.

According to figures released Monday by the state Department of Health, more than 16,000 Florida residents have died of COVID-19. Florida reported 54 resident deaths Monday, bringing the total to 16,021. The state also reported 1,707 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 756,727. The most resident deaths have occurred in Southeast Florida, where Miami-Dade County has had 3,547, Broward County has had 1,515, and Palm Beach County has had 1,497, the Department of Health numbers show. The next-highest numbers are in Pinellas County, with 801 resident deaths, and Hillsborough County, with 751. Also hard-hit have been nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As of Monday, the state reported 6,496 deaths involving long-term care residents and staff members. 

The report includes material from the News Service of Florida.

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