District Family School serves students, parents

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On a Monday afternoon, students attending Socorro Consolidated Schools Family School northwest of the old Torres School on Garfield St. have been dismissed. The school serves 22 Socorro-area home-school students, providing them access to free books and materials as well as other children — and their parents with support from certified teachers. Two half-time teachers provide instruction four days a week.

Karen Bailey-Bowman — El Defensor Chieftain: From left, Family School students Victoria Ramirez, Sarah Owen and Sara Ramirez finish school work while parent Jodie Owen looks on. Parents are an integral part of the district’s home school support site.

Most of the eight home-school students who attend teacher and administrator Dolores Griego’s class on Mondays and Tuesdays are on their way to other engagements, but parent Jayne Sager had time to stop to discuss her reasons for joining the school.

“We started with Family School last year,” she said. “We wanted to have a place to come together as a community, a place to play together, socialize together and work together. What we found was an amazing place.”

Eighth-grader Victoria Ramirez agrees.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “Just the fact that there’s no bullying or teasing, and hardly any negativity compared to regular school.”

Griego was quick to point out that Family School is a public school even if the clientele and methodology are different from “regular” public school classes in the district. She teaches language arts and math using Calvert, a commercial individualized curriculum that provides testing and teaching materials; parents are responsible for the other subject areas.

Griego collaborates with families to develop projects and activities, such as a Wonders of the World exhibit and a school cookbook.

The Calvert curriculum combined with the parent-teacher cooperation and collaboration make up the three “C’s” the school follows.

“I had to change my mentality as a member of the district staff,” said Griego, who returned from retirement to teach elementary-level students two days a week at the school. I have to cooperate with parents. There are four parents present at all times helping in the classroom. You walk in here and you can’t tell who is the certified teacher.”

Griego said she has to cooperate with parents even when making decisions about how to interpret test scores.

Students are given assessments provided by the school’s Calvert curriculum as well as state-mandated tests, such as the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), the Measures of Academic Progress (MAPs) for reading and math and the New Mexico Standards Based Assessments (SBA). As with the regular public schools, Family School parents can opt out of any or all of the tests.

First-grader Sarah Owen has scored above grade level in reading, reassuring her mother Jodie that her home schooling is keeping her child on track academically.

“I’ve been able to reassure Jodie that what’s she’s been doing is academically the right thing,” Griego said.

It helps that district reading coach Karen Earwood and math coach Melody Gaines have their offices in the same building, Griego said. Earwood tested Sarah Owen.

Jodie Owen said Family School meets her family’s needs.

“I enjoy Family School because Sarah is getting a solid education and socialization. She needs to interact with other kids,” she said.

During the rest of the week, parents teach their own children, and at least two families choose faith-based activities as part of their child’s education.