Plaza Voices: Back-to-School for New Americans

Back-to-school is an exciting time for families, but it can also bring a lot of stress--and a lot of uncertainty. This time can be even harder for immigrant and refugee families, who may be unfamiliar with the U.S. school system, speak languages other than English, or have difficulty navigating the online environment where much of enrollment and teacher-parent communication takes place.

Denver Public Schools has worked to overcome these difficulties in several ways. The English Language Acquisition section of their website offers resources for parents and students in English and in nine other languages. Their Safe and Welcoming School District page is full of information for newcomer families and others, like transgender students, who may experience discrimination in the school setting.

One helpful document is their Immigration Rights FAQ, available in English, Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, French, Napali, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. This document addresses concerns about immigration status, law enforcement actions, and discrimination. A separate document, FAQs for Muslim Students, helps families understand their rights with regard to prayer, religious holidays, dietary needs, and a safe learning environment. Like all the documents on this page, it is available in multiple languages.

The Safe and Welcoming page also includes descriptions of the various supports available to immigrant and refugee families in Denver Public Schools. These include counseling, crisis management, and emergency resources for food, clothing, and housing. In addition, DPS operates several Newcomer Centers for students with a history of limited or interrupted schooling, low English proficiency, and fewer than two semesters of schooling in the U.S. 

Many DPS documents are available in languages other than English, and parents have access to free interpretation services by request. The Parent Portal site, where student enrollment, performance, and attendance is tracked, is available in Arabic, English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

A public school education is a constitutional right for all residents, regardless of immigration status. The Denver Public School system does not collect immigration status information from students, and they will not share immigration information if they are informed of it. Parents with questions and concerns can call the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) helpline at 720-423-3054 or email face@dpsk12.org for assistance. Multilingual interpretation assistance is available.

The Denver Public Library's Plaza program is a great place for immigrant families to get support with navigating back-to-school, homework, and other school issues. And the DPL collection has a ton of great resources for parents and students. Visit a library branch near you to find guides for parents and great books for kids about the immigrant experience. 

Plazas are an open community space where immigrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our web page for more information.

 

Written by Amma R. on August 10, 2018