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Parents learn computer skills in free Pateros class

Flexible curriculum allows exploration of various areas

— While students practice sports downstairs on Wednesday nights, several local parents can be found upstairs in the computer lab, learning how to send email or translate text from English to Spanish.

Pateros School District, with the help of grant funding, is offering a free computer class for adults this month.

From 5:30-6:30 p.m. every Wednesday, community members are logging on to the school’s computers to develop skills from navigating the Internet to using Microsoft Works and performing routine maintenance such as defragmenting the hard drive.

“I like it. It’s fun stuff,” teacher Bill Haley said. “It’s nice to give back to the community.”

Haley, whose day job is teaching business and technology, said keeping up on what’s current is a challenge, especially for those who don’t have much experience using a computer.

“I’ve got no set agenda; if they’ve got questions, let’s go,” he said.

During Wednesday’s class, Haley demonstrated that flexibility by rotating his time between chatting with the parents about different tasks they were working on and projecting his computer screen onto a whiteboard to give examples.

If someone had a question he wasn’t sure of, Haley would say, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” He leaves the class open-ended, asking the parents what they’d like to learn about next time.

“It’s pretty nice; it’s helpful,” said Pablo Gonzalez, who spent much of his hour listening to an Excel spreadsheet tutorial. “I really tell people to come to these classes, to come and learn the stuff you really want to know.

“It’s just the future. You’ve got to know it.”

Gonzalez lives in Pateros and has three children enrolled at the school. He said he’s working on learning how to do timesheets on Excel for his employees at Naumes, where he works as an orchard supervisor.

As one of the parents who initially approached the school about a computer class, he’d like to learn more about computer maintenance and repair, along with graphic design.

“I’m just so thankful to the teacher that he takes the time to teach us about computers,” he said.

However, there are only two more classes for the time being, Jan. 22 and Jan. 29, at the school, 344 W. Beach St.

“That’s what we’re offering – a few short lessons – but they’re happy about it,” 21st Century Program Director Ana Vazquez said.

About a dozen parents had approached the school to request the class, and eight signed up, she said. Students provide translation and child care services in exchange for community service credit.

“We’re really excited about being able to offer basic technology classes to our community members and parents,” Superintendent Lois Davies said. “One of our big commitments with the 21st Century program is to make sure family members – parents – have the tools to help support student learning.”

The school decided to host the class in January because more people seem to have time in the evenings during the winter months, between harvest seasons, Vazquez said.

If the class is deemed a success, it may return in the spring or fall, and there’s a chance it would be opened up to Brewster and Bridgeport parents, she said.

“We tried to target the Pateros community first and see how that was going to go,” she said. “Hopefully, we can bring it back.”

The 21st Century grant pays for after-school activities. Other assistance comes from Title I funding, the Learning Assistance Program and the GEAR-Up program, Davies said.

This year, Pateros applied for the 21st Century grant in partnership with the Brewster and Bridgeport school districts.

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