English as a Second Language teacher Mercedes Fernandez, left, and bilingual teacher Sandra Hernandez talking to Spanish-speaking parents who were invited to School No. 2 to learn more about programs available to their children and to them throughout the district.
Parents of Spanish-speaking students were invited to School No. 2 last week to make them feel welcome in Linden Public Schools and to learn more about the district’s ESL and bilingual programs.
About 30 parents came to the Wednesday morning program that was held largely in Spanish.
“Our main concern is to have parents come in and meet us, but also to help parents to understand how to help their children,” said Mercedes Fernandez, a teacher of English as a Second Language at School No. 2 who handles parent and community outreach.
School No. 2 is the district’s magnet school for Spanish speaking ESL students. Spanish ESL is offered in other schools, but parents are urged to send their children to School No. 2, where there is ESL and a part-time bilingual program. Every student who needs it receives ESL classes, then the bilingual program takes it to the next level, giving students classroom support in both languages.
“We support them to take the skills they have in Spanish, to transfer that to English,” Fernandez said.
Parents who attended last week’s program were also taught about ThinkCentral, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website where they can connect with a student’s math and reading materials online. They also heard from representatives of the PTA and the Linden Public Library.
“We want to bring the parents in here and let them know how the program works in Linden for bilingual and ESL,” said Kevin LaMastra, supervisor of world languages/bilingual/ESL. “And also to let them know about other opportunities.”
He said parents who don’t speak English can feel intimidated by the school, and the program for Spanish-speakers is meant to help them get past that hurdle.
“We’re all in this together, we’re partners,” LaMastra said while speaking to the parents in English and Spanish. “Without you, we can’t do it. I want you always to feel welcome in this school. Race, language, migration status — they have no effect on the students’ access to education. There’s no obstacle here.”
Fernandez said bringing the parents together also allows them to meet and learn from one another.
“We notice that parents don’t know each other, so sometimes they don’t know what they have access to,” she said. “If they’re here they get to meet each other, they get to talk about the program and what their experiences have been. It’s a great network opportunity. They get support from each other.”
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LaMastra is particularly excited about a new program this year that will offer ESL to parents who want to learn English. The class will meet most Mondays, 6 to 8 p.m., from Oct. 2 to Dec. 18 at Linden High School.
“That class is going to teach English in the context of helping parents to better navigate school and support their kids,” LaMastra said. “So for example if we’re teaching basic English about clothing, we’ll be able to talk about school dress code. If we’re teaching basic English about food, we’ll be able to talk about school lunch, about nutrition.
“The objective is to help parents become full partners in their child’s education. And it also helps us bring parents into the school who might be reluctant to come otherwise.”
For more information about the family literacy program, call the bilingual/ESL office at (908) 486-2800, ext. 8029.
“Everyone’s welcome here,” LaMastra said. “We work together to help give the kids the absolute best program that we can offer.”