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Elementary schools reach out to families

The Tuesday night event featured opportunities for kids to play math games, write in journals and hear stories read by their principals.

With books spread out in front of them and their children by their side, parents of Rosemount-area elementary school students learned some lessons Tuesday night about what it means to be involved in their child's education.

The event, held at the Rosemount Community Center, was one of three around the district Tuesday paid for with a grant from Dakota County. The evening included storytelling by principals, math games and journaling along with lessons about how to get the most out of a parent-teacher conference.

The idea, Rosemount Elementary School principal Tom Idstrom said, was to find families who have not always played an active role in their child's education and show them that getting involved is easier than they might think.

"Too often we assume that parent involvement means coming to volunteer at the school," Idstrom said. "The best parent involvement is supporting their child in their learning and helping understand that connection between home and school."

Playing a role in your child's education can be as simple as creating a space in the home where a child can read, Idstrom said, or finding a designated place to do homework. There was information presented Tuesday about working lessons into everyday activities.

"It's just a chance to get together as a community," said Shannon Park Elementary School principal Michael Guthrie. "Anytime we can get families together discussing a child's education we all benefit."

The event was open to all families from RES, SPES, Red Pine Elementary, Parkview Elementary and Diamond Path School of International Studies, but there were specific parents each school singled out for invitations.

For some, Idstrom said, there are cultural or language barriers that make getting involved difficult. Idstrom wants those parents to know there are ways to overcome those challenges.

"The purpose of the grant was, how can we engage parents within our schools that have not been engaged or what we perceive to be as engaged in their child's education," Idstrom said. "We're reaching out and making sure we can work on establishing those relationships and let them know we have the ability to translate and bring in interpreters."

Principals also want to know what parents would like to see from them.

The grant paid for the food provided at the event. Similar gatherings were held for schools in Eagan and Apple Valley.

Idstrom said before the event the reaction had been positive. In some cases, students made their own invitations to bring home.

"I think we always need an extra nudge," he said. "I think that's exactly what this is, an extra invitation to say, 'We want your child to be successful. This is your school. Let's work together.'"