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Program aimed at helping parents improve their English to resume after pandemic quickly brought it to halt

After seeing the large number of parents requesting translation services during parent’s night for students in the English as a new language program, Rafael Morais got the idea to start classes for parents in the Mattituck community.

“I started putting that out there and everybody that got back to me said, ‘Hey, if you have a class in this school, we will come,’ ” said Mr. Morais, the Mattituck-Cutchogue school district’s community liaison.

The community liaison position is unique to the district and Mr. Morais said the work entails “everything you can imagine,” from helping parents with paperwork for registration and even helping them make doctor’s appointments, helping students with guidance, making sure they are on track for graduation, helping them with classwork and more.

Any parent whose student was or is currently in the ENL program in Mattituck-Cutchogue school district may join the courses and there is no charge for the parents, according to the director of curriculum, instruction and innovation Ilana Finnegan.

Ms. Finnegan helped getting these classes passed through the Board of Education. The classes are funded through the federal funds the district received to specifically support English language learners, Ms. Finnegan said.

“They’re a significant part of our labor force here in the North Fork and when we can come in, and not only connect with them, but then give them another tool to communicate effectively with us, it definitely directly leads towards creating a better learning environment for the students,” Ms. Finnegan said.

The first class was held March 4, 2020. Classes were two hours long and took place once a week, on Wednesdays, at the Mattituck High School library. Over 30 parents attended the first class, according to Mr. Morais.

“They want to learn, they want to go and represent their kids … our families here, they want to do it,” Mr. Morais said. “They don’t want to rely on [me] or anybody else to go there and translate for them,” he said.

Mr. Morais worked to make these classes accessible and, noticing that child care was another obstacle, he arranged to have child care while the classes were going on.

“So during that class … if you don’t have someone who can watch the kids, they can bring the younger ones and I have high-school seniors that will be there put a movie on for the kids,” Mr. Morais said. He said the students would receive community service hours for their time.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the classes were stopped after the third class on March 25, 2020. This year, classes are expected restart Saturday, Feb. 26. Mr. Morais said that anyone interested in taking the course can contact him through email, at [email protected].

“The more involvement we get from parents, the better it is for kids, for students, and the fact that the numbers are increasing and there’s more interest is a great thing, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Ms. Finnegan said.