ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Virtual PLUS+ Helpline began in August 2020 as a short-term way to help the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) community navigate virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Since that time, it has received more than 12,000 calls, so operators recognize the need for the multilingual service. The decision has been made to keep the Helpline operating through January 2021.
“Staying on top of the many changes to the school year due to COVID-19 is a heavy lift for families, especially when English is not your first language,” said Taneika L. Taylor Tukan, ACPS Community Outreach Manager. “Just being able to connect to and actually speak with a staff member who can patiently walk you through [the technical aspects] has been of great benefit to our families.”
The call center staff consists of current ACPS employees who are working from home with facilities closed. New recruits will soon be trained as replacements for the first crew of 16, who will return to their regular positions within the school system.
Seventy percent of users have reported that English is not their first language; however, the service is available to all. Teams rotate to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. While calls often concern technology and nutrition access, staff can help explain the many parts of Virtual PLUS+.
If staff cannot provide an immediate answer to a question, they reach out to the appropriate school division, then follow up with the caller.
In December, the Alexandria PTA Council giving a portion of the money raised by their Giving Tuesday fundraiser to support the Helpline.
“We are really thankful to those staff who have temporarily transitioned from another department to join the Helpline, said Tukan. “Their dedication to helping our families and students has been wonderful to see.”
Need assistance? Call one of the following numbers:
- For Spanish, call or text 703-844-3424
- For Arabic, call or text 703-927-7095
- For Amharic, call or text 703-927-6866
- For English and all other languages: call or text 703-844-1763