Back to School for Mom, Dad

Prop. 227-funded classes help adults learn English, too.

Paso Robles—Twice a week — Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays — Gloria Ontiveros and Teresita Gallardo make the trek to Georgia Brown Elementary School, even if they have to take a bus to get there.

The two Spanish-speaking women are enrolled in adult English classes at the campus, which is the same one their children attend.

The two women want to be able to navigate through day-to-day life in California — trips to the store, to restaurants, to dental and medical appointments — but they also want to be able to help their children with their English schoolwork. So the mothers have been faithful students. While attendance has fluctuated — the Wednesday class began with 14 and is now down to four or five — Ontiveros and Gallardo rarely miss.

“They have a lot of work to do,” said their teacher, Ana Gomez, “but they’re here.”

Called Community Based Tutoring, the classes are funded through Proposition 227, which allocated $50 million a year for English classes throughout state for adults.

Several schools in San Luis Obispo County offer programs, and most of them offer child care.

The Lucia Mar Unified School District, which along with Paso Robles has one of the county’s biggest populations of English learners, has drop-in learning centers in Nipomo, Oceano and Arroyo Grande. Students can do computer-assisted learning there, and can also sign up for more structured English classes.

In Paso Robles, classes are offered at night, in the afternoons and on Saturdays at beginning and intermediate levels.

“We’re continually getting new people in,” said Fran Long, director of special projects for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, “and subtly teaching the parents some ways of interacting with children that will enhance their academics.”

Classes often center on a theme.

A recent one was trains, and for that unit, students took a couple of train trips.

The classes also give parents the opportunity to ask for help with any special challenges.

When one of Gallardo’s children broke an arm, for example, she needed a quick vocabulary lesson to help her prepare for a visit to the doctor’s office.

Ontiveros and Gallardo, who can both speak conversational English, have made big strides in the couple of years they’ve been taking classes.

“Before, my daughter was translating for me,” said Ontiveros. “Now, she says, ‘No mom, you try.'”

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