CBS News Colorado'sis looking at how one Denver Public School is handling the number of new students who've arrived from the Southern border. Many of these children have had their schooling interrupted and need support catching up academically.
McMeen is encouraging the students to attend school on Saturdays. At least 100 children are giving up their Saturdays for some extra learning time.
This is learning that is necessary to catch up, according to McMeen Assistant Principal Lauren Bartsch.
"Still lingering from the pandemic, we have some pretty significant gaps, especially around literacy," said Bartsch.
Students can work on reading, writing, math and some LEGO coding during Saturday school.
Bartsch says the number of students enrolled in Saturday school this semester has quadrupled in comparison to last semester. Normally, a Saturday school class would have 12 students, but teachers are now seeing up to 24 students.
"Last semester at Saturday school we had approximately 20 students who consistently showed up, already we have closer to 100 on our second week," said Bartsch.
A major reason for this is due in part to their migrant student population enrolling within the last year.
"A lot of our newer country kids are coming with limited schooling, and they have limited skills in their first language and let alone in English," said Bartsch.
These are skills that paraprofessional Manuel Torres helps with. A paraprofessional's role is to help teachers and students in the classroom.
"I have never seen anything like this, this is the first time, it is kind of crazy, but it is also good for the kids that want to learn and for the parents who want to help the kids," said Torres.
By working with students struggling most in the classroom, he can provide relief to teachers like Lyly Zaragoza.
"There's a lot of kids that need that one-on-one, I feel like that's what I've done when I come in, I see what student needs the help the most," said Torres.
On the other side of the hallway, Soledad Montesino, a dual language first-grade teacher, is moving tables on her day off.
"I am getting my classroom ready for 34 students," said Montesino.
It's her second year of teaching and she never anticipated having a class this large.
"I'm responsible for teaching all of them to read, write, do math and on top of that socialize, everybody has a different background," said Montesino.
There are not even enough squares on her carpet for all her students. These challenges teachers at McMeen have to endure, but they are encouraged to see students and their families embracing the extra help on Saturdays.
"It's been a really great way that we can give them those foundational skills in Spanish to support them and be successful in our classrooms," said Bartsch.
McMeen is looking to hire three additional teachers for its Saturday school program, for more information you can visit the district website.
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