Originally created 09/30/03

School centers offer class to parents as well as students

ATHENS, Ga. -- It's classtime at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School, and in one of the portable trailers beside the school, Simon is saying orders, piggies are going to market and little Indians are being counted up and down.

Students in this class are older than the others at the school, however. It's a group of parents that is laughing as they play children's games and try to sound out the difference between "bag" and "bug."

The five students are a handful of the Hispanic parents who have children enrolled at the school.

With the help of the school's new Parent Literacy Center, they're learning English with the same childhood games that will help their children learn counting, the alphabet and parts of the body.

"We feel that children's educational success really depends on a parent's involvement," said Gregory Hull, coordinator of the new literacy center. "We want to help them understand their child's education and what's going on in school, and we want to involve parents in the school environment."

That means offering not only literacy classes, but parenting seminars, car-seat safety courses and suggestions for how to read with children.

Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary's literacy center, which opened at the beginning of the school year, is part of a growing trend toward establishing such resources centers in Clarke County schools.

A recent report by the Clarke County School District's Multicultural Task Force advocated creating centers in every school as one way of not only providing services to parents and families and connecting them with social service programs, but also as a way of making parents feel welcome in schools.

Resource centers already are in place or are planned for several Clarke County schools.

In the past month, more than 100 parents have volunteered through the resource center to do odd jobs such as copying and creating classroom materials for Alps Road Elementary teachers - support work previously done by teacher's aides the school has lost to the current budget crunch.

"We do everything from helping children get glasses to helping people who have legal questions to health and medical issues to any kind of community referrals," coordinator Mary Kelley said.

When Chase Street Elementary polled parents about what they'd like offered through the school's resource center, answers ranged from cooking and sewing classes to seminars on starting a business to advice on gaining legal citizenship, coordinator Phyllis Childs said.

The committee planning the partnership had already begun formulating ideas for resource centers when members heard about a similar program at Yale University.

In shaping the local model, they visited resource centers at schools in Connecticut, New York and Kentucky - where state law requires such centers in schools.


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