Tutoring programs receive funding to stay open

Joshua Kellogg

AZTEC — Two after-school tutoring programs in San Juan County schools will continue to operate with help from a local nonprofit organization and an anonymous donor.

Phyllis Cox teaches her kindergarten class on Wednesday at Lydia Rippey Elementary School in Aztec. A popular after-school tutoring program in the Aztec district has been salvaged, thanks partly to a donation by an anonymous foundation.

The after-school tutoring programs for Aztec elementary schools and Blanco Elementary School in the Bloomfield School District will continue to operate after an anonymous foundation committed to providing both programs with funding, according to district officials.

The tutoring programs previously were funded by the San Juan County Partnership, which received a grant worth about $250,000 for the 2015-2016 school year. The local nonprofit organization was not awarded funding for the 2017-2020 funding cycle earlier this year. The funding is provided in four-year cycles.

Funding is distributed by the New Mexico Public Education Department, which received the money from the U.S. Department of Education as part of a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.

Kirk Carpenter, Aztec Municipal School District superintendent, said the district will contribute about $100,000 toward the projected $168,000 annual cost for its program.

The unnamed foundation is providing a portion of the remaining money, but a small amount of money will still need to be raised to cover the balance.

The foundation has committed to providing an initial $10,000 for each of the three Aztec elementary schools — Lydia Rippey, McCoy and Park Avenue. After a future site visit, the foundation’s contribution could increase, Carpenter said. Organizers are planning to start the tutoring program on Monday, Aug. 29.

Daniella Alba answers a question in Phyllis Cox's kindergarten class on Wednesday at Lydia Rippey Elementary School in Aztec.

Carpenter declined to name the foundation after the organization requested anonymity. Carpenter said the foundation reached out to the district after hearing about the possible closure of the tutoring program.

“The district is committed to make sure this year we have that after-school tutoring program,” Carpenter said.

The Aztec district was able to find the $100,000 through savings in operations costs and using a portion of the district’s cash balance, Carpenter said. The funding will cover the salaries of an on-site coordinator, two tutors and about four activity assistants at each of the three schools.

For Blanco Elementary, the Farmington-based nonprofit organization the Three Rivers Education Foundation (TREF) and the same unnamed foundation will contribute an unknown amount to the tutoring program.

The TREF will provide funds for four teachers to tutor Blanco Elementary students, according to Bloomfield School District Superintendent Kim Mizell. She said she didn't know the name of the foundation that had committed the additional funding, explaining that Blanco Elementary Principal Raul Sanchez has been in talks with the foundation. Sanchez said the unnamed foundation will contribute $10,000 to the school.

“We are working with several people and agencies, trying to put a program in place,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez and Mizell said they were working on finding funding to pay for transporting the students home and figuring out how many students could participate in the program. The program previously served about 60 students, but Mizell said the program would operate at a smaller size this year.

She hopes to launch the tutoring program at the end of the month.

Raymond Ferrier works on a project in Phyllis Cox's kindergarten class on Wednesday at Lydia Rippey Elementary School in Aztec.

“We’re very appreciative of any support from our community,” Mizell said.

Phyllis Cox, an on-site coordinator at Lydia Rippey Elementary, said she felt lucky the district was able to find funding to continue the tutoring program. Cox said the program also provides much-needed child care for parents after school.

“Without that program, so many of these kids, we don’t know where they would go,” Cox said.

Students receive tutoring assistance or enrichment from 1 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The tutors speak with a student’s teacher and parents to help monitor their progress through the school year.

The students also participate in activities including games, gardening, arts and crafts, and community service.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.