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Online alert! Parking space is open

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Looking for a parking space? Try cyberspace.

This seaside city, as well known among locals for its lack of parking as its sandy beaches, is unveiling a new online service that alerts people every time a parking space opens up in its central shopping district.

The system, introduced Tuesday, is believed to be one of the first of its kind, said software designer Jim Eshraghi. It updates a new, city-run Web site every five seconds, displaying the numbers of available spaces in downtown structures and at beach lots.

The information will be posted online and on the electronic signs in front of the parking lots and garages. Plans are also in the works to make the system compatible with BlackBerry devices.

The goal is to "make the traffic and congestion problems go away or at least try to alleviate them," said city spokesman Jory Wolf.

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Grandmas provide ‘old-school’ education

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Kindergartners and first-graders here are getting some "old school" education.

A group of 15 grandmothers logged more than 1,500 hours volunteering with struggling students at Bonita Springs Charter school last year. "Grandma Time" began after 70-year-old Ceil Jennings started volunteering in her grandsons’ class in 2002.

Jennings, a mother of five with 11 grandkids, said grandmas help children learn in a different way than teachers. They go over areas where the children need help, like letters, numbers or hand-eye coordination, and hand out high-fives and hugs, the News-Press of Fort Myers reported Wednesday.

"One asked me, ‘Are we allowed to hug the kids?’ I told her, ’You can’t avoid it!"’ Jennings said.

All kindergartners, not just those who are having trouble, get Grandma Time at one point or another.

"The other kids go, ‘Why can’t I go with Grandma?’ " Jennings said.

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