Roaring Fork Schools grant to boost at-risk student, family services | PostIndependent.com

Roaring Fork Schools grant to boost at-risk student, family services

Staff report

The Roaring Fork Schools have been awarded a $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Education to support programs for at-risk student behavior.

The $1,046,543 Expelled and At-Risk Student Services (EARSS) grant provides four years of funding for education and support services to expelled students, students at risk of being expelled, and students at risk of being declared, or who have been declared, habitually truant, school district officials explained in a news release.

"It will allow us to coordinate and extend the work we have been doing through the district's culture and climate team and accelerate our efforts to respond to the needs of our at-risk students and families," said Rob Stein, superintendent for the Roaring Fork School District.

The grant will be used to create what's called a responsive services coordinator position under the state program. The district has hired Grace Tennant in the new position to help each school develop systems for "ensuring student and family engagement with marginalized or at-risk populations."

Tennant brings a wide variety of instructional experience and just received her doctorate, which focused on crew and social-emotional learning.

"We feel strongly that her understanding of using data and implementation science will help us advance the grant goals, reducing our rates of habitual truancy and thus increasing pass rates and achievement for those students," said Lindsay Hentschel, secondary instructional facilitator for the school district, who was part of the hiring committee. Hentschel has been a leader for the district's culture and climate team.

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Tennant will work to coordinate the development of comprehensive systems to re-engage and partner with the more than 400 habitually truant students and families, according to the district release.

The grant funding will also allow the district to build a better digital system for case management, increasing communication with and support for families, and reducing gaps that sometimes lead to students "slipping through the cracks."

"We believe increasing belonging, engagement and voice for students and their families reduces risk factors for habitual truancy and better allows us to address social, emotional, behavioral and academic needs that co-exist with chronic absenteeism," said Hentschel.

"Traditionally, interventions have been something done to students and families," she said. "Our culture and climate team, through the EARSS grant work, wants to shift that model so that the work that we do is with students and families."

Grant funds will be used for case management and coordination of services for students and families, as well as professional development for staff at district schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.