Translating Access at Erwin Middle


Translating Access Through the Coronavirus at Erwin Middle

From Internet access and hot spots to data limitations and platform overwhelm, the transition to virtual schooling was far from easy for Erwin Middle students as they shifted gears to ‘Stay Home and Stay Safe’ in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “There’s just no guidebook for that,” Erwin Middle Seventh Grade Counselor Heath Capps shared on families shifting to navigating life and school from home together. 

“The struggle with going virtual is you barely even have that connection to check in to see how kids are doing,” he said. “You’re very aware that there are plenty of people that might need something that don’t have access to even ask for it or can’t figure out how to ask in this online space.”


Making Positive Phone Calls to Families

In addition to making sure all families had the tools to access their curriculum, many families needed additional support in translating unfamiliar tech set-up and navigation from Spanish speaking school staff. United Way Community School Coordinator Jocelin Rosas took on much of that work alongside Family Outreach Specialist Norma Brown

“Every time I’ve called to talk with a parent, they’ve been so grateful,” Rosas said. “I think they can feel that the school really cares and is trying to keep them in the loop and help them and their child through this challenging time.” In addition to checking in for homework instruction help or community resource support, Rosas was also given a list of parents to contact with Positive Phone Calls. These calls were to encourage the parents about their child’s progress and let them know the school was appreciative of how hard they’re working to shift gears online. “They really help keep everybody feeling engaged and seen in a different way,” Rosas shared.


Checking In and Creating Safe Digital Space for Support

As student services held twice weekly open Zoom calls for check-ins, counselors and teachers kept open office hours and made supplemental videos for support, mentorship groups including Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC and Journeymen continued to offer social emotional check-in space for students online. Rosas gathered student leadership group Welcome Warriors online as well for weekly check-ins using the Restorative Practices format, which emphasize the importance of restoring relationships and community when harm has occurred. 

“It’s a safe space to just really be able to connect with each other in the midst of all of this,” Rosas said. “We start those meetings with a check-in question and try to keep it lighthearted like what’s your favorite quarantine snack right now, then move into how are you feeling and tell me about your work. We end the call with a question like ‘What are you going to do this week to take care of yourself emotionally? Their answers might range from watching a movie that makes them feel better to going outside or playing their favorite game. We really just want to reinforce and remind them that life has its tougher moments and we need to have tools, personally and collectively, to go to when those moments happen.”