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RISD exploring student-support programs

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Local agencies assist effort to create support system for kids, families

Roswell Independent School District, in an attempt to make up for the lack of structure and social connection offered through in-person classroom instruction, will begin offering programs to help students who are struggling.

The RISD Board of Education heard about some of those programs at its regular meeting Tuesday evening. Students’ social-emotional learning comprised a large part of those discussions during the meeting.

Social-emotional learning involves skills such as self-awareness, management of one’s emotions, development of relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

“One of the strong things, not just here in Roswell, but statewide what they’re finding is that kids are really struggling with that emotional support of not being around their peers, not being around the school setting,” Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said.

Families are being affected, too, Board President Hope Morales said. She spoke of several families facing difficulties such as a student who stays with his grandparents during the day. The grandparents speak only Spanish and don’t know how to navigate the technology of remote learning. She also spoke about a stay-at-home mother trying to help her kindergartener while caring for two younger children, and a working single parent who, because of her job, is unable to give time to her middle-school children when they have technical issues.

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“I want to make sure we’re continuing to do our best to meet their needs with good communication and support and providing flexibility when needed,” Morales said.

“I’m afraid we know some of the damages now, but I think this is going to be huge long-term and we don’t realize the impact it’s going to have long-term on kiddos,” she said.

To help alleviate some of those issues, Jennifer Cole, assistant superintendent for curriculum, outlined how the district is working to help students and families.

The district has met with community agencies such as Chaves County Court Appointed Special Advocates, Wings for Life and the juvenile probation office to create a support system for students and families, she said.

“How do we make sure we’re finding those families or that we’re offering them a place to do self-referrals in case they have some needs?” she said.

Some of those programs are still being finalized, but she said CASA and Wings for Life have started virtual versions of their school programs. Those include Building Assets for elementary school children and WhyTry Leadership Program in the middle schools from Wings for Life, and Girls Circle and Leadership Program for Boys from CASA.

A self-referral process has been developed and will be available soon for parents on the RISD website. The district has also developed a referral process for teachers to use when they know a student needs help.

The juvenile probation office also collected bottled water and food donations. RISD Attendance Officer Helen Cheromiah distributed those donations to schools that participate in the backpack program, which offers backpacks of food for qualified families.

“There’s lots of really good connection pieces happening with our families and community right now,” Cole said.

In addition, RISD will begin an online tutoring program for students needing academic help, Gottlieb said. That should begin within a week or so.

Tutoring will be available for specific topics through a link on the RISD website.

The most difficult aspect of making the tutoring available is finding the staff willing to do it, Gottlieb said. Teachers teach all day and some are supervising their own children’s remote learning, as well, he said.

The district will use funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to pay teachers for the tutoring time, Gottlieb said.

“We’ll do it as long as we need to do it, as long as we’re online and maybe even afterwards. This may be a great way to supply another support system within the educational field,” he said.

An outside agency is also working with RISD to provide virtual peer tutoring in the high schools. Danny Herrera gave a presentation to the board on TRIO, a student outreach program through Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. Three programs — Educational Talent Search, Upward Bound and the Educational Opportunity Center — comprise TRIO.

Herrera said the organization is still trying to figure out how to provide peer tutoring virtually but is taking applications for tutors.

“We’re hoping to find juniors and seniors from the high schools with good GPAs that can help anywhere from sixth grade through seniors,” he said.

“Once we get the tutors then we can start looking at schedules,” he said.

The goal is to have peer tutors available both during school hours and after school.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.