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Back in the Classroom

It crystallized many of the things we tried to do with that show, which was get at the underlying causes of problems like violence and addiction, and find solutions that were working. That came back to me this week recording our roundtable on the difficult issue of school attendance for New Mexico in Focus.

New Mexico has long struggled with chronic absenteeism, which is when a student misses five or more days of school. This got markedly worse during the pandemic and remains high compared to the years before COVID.

When the state passed the Attendance for Success Act in 2019, it marked a definite shift from past strategies in which students missing too much school were penalized, sometimes through the criminal justice system, often along with their parents.

Teri Wimborne from United Way of North Central New Mexico is working with schools to comply with the requirements of that legislation.

“I’ll tell you this: I don’t believe there’s a parent in the state that doesn’t care about their child’s education,” she says on the show. “But I do believe there are parents who are overwhelmed. I think there are parents who, you know, they’re living in poverty, or they have three jobs or there are so many other things going on in their lives that are first…that attendance does not reach the top of the list. Those are the parents that the school wants to partner with, talk with. How can we solve those barriers?”

She goes on to give a great example of a simple intervention that worked for one family.

Also on the show is Leslie Kelly, behavioral health coordinator with the Public Education Department, and Estevan Gallegos, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor at the Children Youth and Families Department.

PED maintains a dashboard on attendance, and Wimborne says the data collected there shows that students without secure housing, who have disabilities, and are experiencing poverty have more problems with absenteeism.

During this segment we dive into what PED, along with United Way and CYFD, is doing to make sure students are present and engaged at school by taking a more holistic approach to the environment that a student is coming from and, hopefully, get families the services they need.

– Megan Kamerick, News Director, KUNM