Two years since the pandemic, the inequities still facing Latino students

Posted at 4:15 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 19:18:23-04

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) - As we near almost two years since the start of the pandemic, Latino students in the classroom are still facing inequities in their education.

But there is continued work being done to help Latino students and their families excel.

"This pandemic has been very difficult for our families from the offset," explains Lucero Chavez. "It just magnified those disparities."

Chavez works for Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) an organization that works to better connections between Latino families, their schools and their communities.

"We think families are a solution to a lot of things that we have, and one way is to get them involved," Chavez said. "And the best way to do that is to have linguistically and culturally appropriate modes of communication."

At the start of the pandemic, PIQE called more than 60,000 homes in Spanish, asking them what they needed, what problems were they facing and how could they help?

The majority of families found inequities in technology.

"That's when we noticed that a lot of our parents didn't have internet, they didn't have the devices and they didn't have the know-how to navigate those digital platforms," she said.

The San Diego County Office of Education then worked to try and fix this problem. The San Diego Foundation gave $1 million to the county, which went towards the purchases of computers and tablets for students who did not have them.

But more startling than the digital divide was that Latino students, who make up 48% of the county's students were most affected by the coronavirus.

"Many of our parents and our family members are essential workers," recalls Dr. Fabiola Bagula of concerns students expressed with her. "And we have lost a lot of people around us, and we haven't given ourselves enough time to mourn, but I know when I say goodbye to my mother or father, I worry about them all the time."

Dr. Bagula says that as a result, many of the Latino students skipped days at school to either care for their younger siblings or go to a job.

"We are seeing these reports that children are not happy. They are not feeling the joy that they should be feeling in schools," emphasizes Dr. Bagula.

That is why the Office of Education created a guide for its 42 districts, which provided solutions to student concerns.

It also trained counselors and therapists at 90 schools about understanding how to better help Latino students.

"We have been all hands on deck almost immediately," states Dr. Bagula.

And to help with language barriers, PIQE created an application in collaboration with School CNXT where parents would be able to translate important information.

For those parents who have difficulty reading, they can speak into their phone and hear the message back in their preferred language.

"Communication we think is a huge part of it, we need to be talking to our parents and our families in their home language, in a way that they can understand that it is accessible to them," Chavez said. "And we need to keep them informed about what they can do to support their students, to support their schools and their communities."

But the work to provide more resources to Latino families and students is nowhere near done.

The County Office of Education says that in 2020, 78.9% of Latino students graduated in four years compared to 87.1% of their non-Latino peers.

Both organizations hope to see that number increase, as they continue to work hard to ensure their student's success.