Hispanic family in Cleveland to continue online schooling, even with new language barriers

Updated: Jul. 24, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Elizabeth Aguilar is fully aware of the danger that Covid-19 brings to Cleveland. She is more than prepared to protect her two sons, 13-year-old Hector and 9-year-old Julian. But, she is concerned about their education if online learning continues.

“This is a very strong pandemic,” the single mother from Peru said in Spanish. “This isn’t a game.”

But when Metro Catholic School shifted to only provide online learning, the change came at a cost of her two boys’ performance in class.

Elizabeth only knows Spanish, which means her sons lacked an extra guide to help them with their work.

“When you’re online, you have to read [the assignments] and sometimes there’s no one to explain it to you,” Hector explained.

Elizabeth was previously able to speak to a school translators directly to answer any questions or concerns, but the pandemic has limited these lines of communication.

Now, Elizabeth says her only way to help her sons is by using online translating services, such as Google Translate.

“The problem is that I often have to explain it back to them in Spanish, and they may not understand,” Elizabeth said.

While Elizabeth has received help from friends and school staff to translate documents and assignments for her kids, she admits that she lacks many of the tools necessary to handle her sons’ needs. Meanwhile, Covid-19 continues to strike the Latino community in Cleveland. According to the CDC, its infection rates among Hispanic Americans is four times higher than that for white Americans.

“You could go to the Hispanic committee or many other places to get paperwork translated, but now you can’t. You can call and call and call [the school] and you’d never get a response.”

As the pandemic remains a constant threat in the United States, Elizabeth has decided to keep her sons home, regardless of any decision by the city of Cleveland, saying that losing a good grade is better than losing a life.

“I would gladly buy my kids the last toy ever, because they are my sons,” she said. “But if this virus gets you..it won’t matter if your clothes are worth one thousand dollars or just a dollar.”

The Peruvian mother will continue to do whatever it takes to protect her kids, no matter how big or small.

“They’re still young, and have their entire futures ahead of them,” she said.

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