March 25, 1996 in Nation/World

Halfway House For Homework Former Libby Middle School Becomes Drop-In Center For Students

Carla K. Johnson Staff writer
 

Mary Davis, a 12-year-old gigglebox with a backpack, scooted into the Homework Support Center at 6 p.m. sharp. She sputtered with laughter as she printed her name on a sign-in sheet.

Eric Nyborg’s serious nature offset his daughter’s giggles. A bearded man in a knit cap, Nyborg said he hopes the people at the center can help Mary with her homework better than he can.

“I can do the math,” he explained. “But I have a hard time getting her to figure it out for herself without giving her the answer.”

In a classroom at the old Libby Middle School, 2900 E. First, kids like Mary get a cup of cocoa and help with their assignments. Parents like Nyborg get a chance to learn how to help.

The homework help is paid for with $7,000 in federal money. The center is open Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Tutors - including Eastern Washington University students and teachers training to be principals - work with 10 to 15 kids who wander in from the East Central neighborhood or arrive by car from all over town.

The numbers have grown each week since the center opened Feb. 5. Schools publicize the center in their newsletters. Counselors recommend it to students falling behind.

Glue, tape, note cards, markers and a rainbow of construction paper sit ready for students to use. Best of all for students without even a typewriter at home, there are seven computer terminals, including two connected to the Internet.

But it’s not the computers that students mention when asked what they like about the center.

“The teachers are nice and you don’t have anybody bothering you,” said Doris Muse, 13, a Chase Middle School seventh-grader who typed a story about Medusa on a center computer one day last week.

“At home, my brother and his friends are running around,” said Elindili Guzman, 15, a freshman at Lewis and Clark High School. She had kidney surgery two months ago and is a center regular as she catches up.

Joe Brison, a sixth-grader at Stevens Elementary School, said the center helps him find time for homework.

“I can play all day, then come in here from 6 to 9 and get it done,” he said.

Homework is an arena where family circumstances can make huge differences in achievement.

Research shows that students who ignore homework tend to have less-educated parents and less access to books, dictionaries and maps at home.

Rather than give up homework as an outdated, inequitable idea, as one California district considered in 1994, educators often see it as a way to reach parents.

Some Inland Northwest schools have homework hotlines. Others stay open late for “after-school study clubs.”

At Bemiss Elementary School in Hillyard, 30 students stay after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to do homework. Teachers trained a group of parents to help the students.

“For us, it’s not replacing the family,” said Bemiss Principal Dale McDonald. “It’s trying to build a bridge to the parents as true educational partners.”

That philosophy prevails at the homework center.

The center staff invites parents to stick around with their children; it sends notes home and to teachers.

New students sign a contract promising to arrive prepared, follow directions, conserve materials and use the computers for homework.

In addition to helping families, the center fulfills a pledge.

In 1992, Spokane School District 81 officials promised the East Central neighborhood to keep the Libby building open after the district built a larger replacement, Chase Middle School, in southeast Spokane.

Neighborhood leaders wanted the building to be a vibrant island a block from an East Sprague Avenue area notorious for prostitution.

The Libby building now serves as a teacher training center, a school for gifted children and a Saturday school. A teen center also is planned through a partnership with the YMCA and the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.

Mel Carter, president of the Men’s African American Community Association, praised the district for its commitment. “The district is trying to answer some of the students’ problems by keeping buildings manned and accessible,” Carter said.

Teacher Linda Takami, who helps run the homework center, has a wish list: beanbag chairs for reading, a complete set of textbooks and more volunteers who know algebra, geometry and calculus.

“My biggest fear is someone will come in and need help with their advanced math,” she said. “When something like that happens, we open up the staff directory and start calling people we know.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: BEING THERE Checklist for helping your child with homework:

Show you value education, homework Do you set a regular time every day for homework? Does your child have papers, books, pencils? A calendar or assignment book? A bag for books and a folder for papers? Does your child have a fairly quiet place to study with lots of light? Do you set a good example by reading and writing yourself?

Monitor assignments Do you know what your child’s homework assignments are? How long they should take? How the teacher wants you to be involved? Do you see that assignments are started and completed?

Provide guidance Do you encourage your child to develop good study habits such as scheduling enough time for big assignments? Do you talk with your child about homework assignments? Does your child understand them?

Talk with someone at school when problems arise If a problem comes up, do you meet with the teacher? Do you cooperate with the teacher and your child to work out a time and a place to fix homework problems?

Source: U.S. Department of Education

This sidebar appeared with the story: BEING THERE Checklist for helping your child with homework:

Show you value education, homework Do you set a regular time every day for homework? Does your child have papers, books, pencils? A calendar or assignment book? A bag for books and a folder for papers? Does your child have a fairly quiet place to study with lots of light? Do you set a good example by reading and writing yourself?

Monitor assignments Do you know what your child’s homework assignments are? How long they should take? How the teacher wants you to be involved? Do you see that assignments are started and completed?

Provide guidance Do you encourage your child to develop good study habits such as scheduling enough time for big assignments? Do you talk with your child about homework assignments? Does your child understand them?

Talk with someone at school when problems arise If a problem comes up, do you meet with the teacher? Do you cooperate with the teacher and your child to work out a time and a place to fix homework problems?

Source: U.S. Department of Education


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