School-based Family Learning begins in South Omaha

April 30, 2015

When Principal Terry Burton saw how well parent classes worked for families in the Learning Community Center of South Omaha, he wanted to bring the program to his school. Gateway Elementary is a new OPS school serving many immigrant families. Independent evaluations of Learning Community programs show Family Learning classes significantly improve student achievement.

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Burton expects parents taking the classes to become a leadership team in the school. He’s already recruiting moms like Mayra Duarte. She wants to make sure her three boys do their best in school. Even though Nicholas isn't old enough for elementary school, he'll benefit too. Classes stress the importance of reading together as a family every day -- in English and Spanish. 

Everything in the Family Learning program is designed to support parents in their role as their child's first teachers. Gateway's plan includes a library of family-friendly bilingual materials.

Gateway Family Learning
• English for Parents with an ESL instructor
• Parenting workshops
• Home activities and learning tips from volunteer teachers
• Bilingual books for all reading levels

"Children are always watching. The parents who enroll in our new Family Learning classes at Gateway Elementary are setting a wonderful example for their children."
– Principal Terry Burton

The classes are a shared investment. Gateway provides the classroom space and a bilingual navigator. The Learning Community and partner OneWorld Community Health Centers work closely with the school team as it adapts the program using a continuous improvement model. View facts. The Coordinating Council startup funding of $42,207 this year and $163,775 for the 2015-2016 school year includes an ESL instructor and independent program evaluations, 

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Bilingual Liaison Eric Ketobiokou is the program navigator for parents. He expects 60 families to sign up for the Family Learning classes starting this fall.

Mom Cynthia Villarruel is excited to be one of the first recruits. Her kids Valeria and Ulises are in the first and third grades. Like most parents, she wants to do everything she can to help them in school. Ketobiokou believes parents can have a "big impact on their child's education." He encourages parents to take the classes and be role models, showing other parents how to get involved.

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The Gateway school community faces challenges. Of 900 students, half are learning English. In the Omaha metro area, Hispanic poverty is over 27 percent. Eight out of 10 families here qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

Getting parents involved in their child’s school is a big deal. It's no accident Principal Terry Burton wants the parent classes in the community room, the first classroom inside the front door. Burton thinks it's a great way to reach out to parents and say "welcome to Gateway."

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