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Durango School District committed to supporting students who face challenges

Last month, I shared information on our continued Personalized Competency Based Learning work, which is designed to ensure every student in the district gains the same benefit of being well-prepared for a successful future.

Education is the only pathway to success, especially for those who are caught in the cycle of poverty. Every child can learn. It is our job to employ the right strategy to make that happen.

Integral to students’ success are district efforts to address their emotional well-being. As previously referenced, a lot of our students come to school wearing proverbial “backpacks” that contain personal struggles, social-emotional challenges or unmet basic needs.

This has presented a terrific challenge in our schools. Although many children come to school without those challenges and prepared to learn, there is still a need to provide support for students’ social-emotional needs while protecting every child’s right to learn. This is not a simple task.

Today, our students are exposed to struggles that some of us can only imagine. Whether it’s 24/7 bullying by peers or adults, identity challenges, unsupportive home situations or abusive environments, poverty or even homelessness, the realities of today’s society affect students’ readiness to learn. These factors can manifest themselves in low motivation, troublesome behavior, substance abuse or even suicidal thoughts. When poor behaviors are exhibited, school districts have used the only tools available in the past – suspension and expulsion.

When we send a student away and back into the community without supports, we fail to change the pathway for the child and cause profound impacts within our community. Today, our schools are working diligently to find interventions, outside of the classroom, where students can be guided and supported in finding solutions. This effort requires great partnership with our community agencies as we leverage appropriate resources to improve the lives of children.

What we cannot do is allow these challenges to affect the learning that happens in the classroom, when a majority of students come to school ready to learn. The interventions that we are building are designed to provide supports for students away from their peers to ensure that learning is always first and foremost in the classroom. Like all parents, I want my children to learn and grow in preparation for a successful future. At the same time, I never want another child who is struggling to be dismissed and sentenced to a life of continued struggles.

It’s easy to be frustrated with children who we perceive to be troubled. I will always recognize that before reaching adulthood, solutions to help these children are within our reach. We can be angry with the situation that created the challenge, and we can be angry with the adults who place their personal needs over those of their children, but I hope we as a community can recognize that for many of our children growing up in our strange world today, we are the last and best hope for a successful future for our children and our community!

I welcome your thoughts and ideas as we continue to create solutions that can ensure the success of all children in our community.

Email Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger at dsnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.