Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Credit Recovery Program Helps Wood River High School Students Advance
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Kris Stoffer and Pamela Donoso are among those helping students like Lupita Juarez in a credit recovery program this summer.
   
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Lupita Juarez, like many students, struggled when school shut down in March due to the coronavirus and classrooms went online.

“It was super hard because it was hard for me to stay focused online. At home I was busy all the time and it was hard for me to understand things without being there with a teacher,” she said.

Juarez might have had to repeat her sophomore year next year as a result of her difficulties. But, thanks to a unique partnership between I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho and Wood River High School, she is getting the help she needs to pass algebra and biology and move into her junior year when school resumes in August.

 
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Frilen Enriquez and Hugo Esparza say they are attending the Summer Seminar to finish their classes.
 

Not only is she getting tutoring from in-person teachers and tutors, but she and others who are taking advantage of the free credit recovery program are getting free breakfasts and lunches, as well.

“It has really helped me a lot,” said Juarez.

The credit recovery program is open through June 25 to any high school student who lost credits during the past school year. Students don’t even need to register. They can just drop in at the high school between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Some students are also getting credit recovery help online.

 
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Jett Carruth is volunteering his time to tutor his fellow students in the Summer Seminar, having done some tutoring during the regular school year.
 

“We are serving between 35 and 40 WRHS youth in partnership with the school. Thirteen are I Have a Dream Foundation students; the rest are other students at the high school” said Laura Rose-Lewis, executive director of I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho. “We were hoping to serve even more teens, but many needed to work this summer and were unable to participate.”

I Have a Dream Foundation, which has mentored 45 students since they were in the third grade, constructed a similar program for its students last summer. It worked so well that Rose-Lewis and other I Have a Dream staff suggested the partnership with Wood River High School this summer.

Such a program can ensure students get the credits they need to move on to the next grade, as well as  the 54 credits they need to graduate.

“We’ve tried to fill the gap in learning for our kids in so many ways,” said WRHS Principal John Pearce. “With the school closure, the gap widened. We met to have the conversation about expanding the program before school was closed, and it was not a question of should we but how. When school closed, the conversation immediately ramped up.”

 
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WRHS Principal John Pearce noted that the high school has not offered summer school for several years.
 

Kris Stoffer, who ran the program last year with I Have a Dream Foundation Program Director Pamela Donoso, helped design this year’s program with Pearce.

WRHS and the Dream Foundation have collaborated on facilitators and tutors. The Blaine County School District has provided the facility and contributed meals from a food assistance program it set up for any student in the district when the pandemic shut school down.

One morning last week, for instance, students ate eggs, potatoes, hashbrowns, fresh fruit, donuts, milk and juice for breakfast. They had sandwiches, burgers and chips for lunch and Clif Bars and granola bars throughout the day.

 

Pearce said that students were told their grades would be under a “hold harmless” policy when the shelter-in-place order closed schools in the Wood River Valley. That meant they could improve their grades during distanced learning but their grades would not go down.

“We told them: You ‘ve gone three-quarters of the year and something happened that’s not your fault,” Pearce explained.

But some students were not able to improve their grades while learning from home as they had hoped to had school continued as normal.

“We had many success stories in which teachers found kids who were having difficulty and worked with them. But we also heard stories about kids fading away—that’s what saddens me,” said Pearce.

Stoffer said some students felt disengaged during the school year and that only increased when in-person classes had to be shelfed because of COVID-19. The lack of personal contact with teachers and other kids also discouraged students who had been doing well.

“We had Dreamers, for instance, who had gone from D’s and F’s to A’s and B’s during school. They started struggling during the pandemic because they didn’t have that personal touch. Even though we provided online tutoring, our kids missed the connection with students and teachers.”

“This is a way to reconnect students with teachers. And ultimately that’s what learning is about—relationships,” she added.

The Summer Seminar, as the credit recovery program is called, gives students access to the Plato platform where they work through models of learning designed for independent work.  Teachers are there to help, as are student tutors like Jett Carruth.

“I really enjoy it—it gives me a chance to share what I know,” said Carruth. “School is easy for me but it isn’t for others. So, why not help!?”

Rose-Lewis said the program offers help with core classes like math, history, science, and literature, along with a few electives like computer applications.  Students take tests to demonstrate the understand the subject matter.

“If any student needs to recover credits, all they have to do is show up at 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday and we can make it happen,” she added.

 

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