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RES reaches out for some helping hands

Volunteer Arlen Evenson asks an RES kindergarten student to identify the number missing from a series of flash cards Tuesday at the school. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the school at 651-423-7690.1 / 3
Angela Modrynski works with a student Tuesday at RES.2 / 3
Volunteer Angela Modrynski works with a Rosemount Elementary School kindergartener on basic number skills. Modrynski is one of eight volunteers who has committed to spend at least an hour a week at RES.3 / 3

As budgets get smaller and classes get bigger, schools in Independent School District 196 find themselves looking for new ways to get kids the help they need.

At Rosemount Elementary School, that includes a stronger push to recruit volunteers, and a new program to train the people who sign up so they can provide specific help to students.

RES principal Tom Idstrom said the school has had to lean more heavily on unpaid help as the budget for classroom aides has shrunk.

"We recognize that the amount of individualized support we have for our students ... has been reduced," Idstrom said. "The number of students in the classroom has increased. So we looked at using our volunteers in a different way."

In this case, that means putting volunteers through training so they help they give students better aligns with the lessons kids get in the classroom. On Tuesday this week that involved three volunteer who spent an hour siting at elementary-sized desks helping kindergarten students learn the difference between an 8 and a 4, or a 9 and a 6.

The school made a strong push at the beginning this year to recruit volunteers. Idstrom sent messages out to Rosemount churches and to businesses in the area, as well as to RES parents.

Volunteer Arlen Evenson signed up after seeing the call for volunteers at Lighthouse Christian Church, where he attends services. He comes from Burnsville each week to help out at RES. He likes math, he said, and he enjoys working with the kids.

Over the course of an hour Tuesday he worked with four students, guiding them through a series of exercises. He spread a series of numbered cards on the desk and ask the students to identify the number that was missing. Then he asked the student to flip open a cardboard door and name the number inside. He offered support when they struggled and praise when they succeeded. The training he received taught him how to score student responses.

"I think it's fun," he said. "They're so interested in getting it right."

Idstrom hopes to eventually find 30 people like Evenson who are willing to commit to an hour a week helping students. So far, he's found eight. He's happy with the start. He said starting small has helped the school work out any kinks n the program.

"It's a lot to ask for people to give up an hour of their week, but I think those that have volunteered so far have enjoyed it greatly and are seeing the benefits," Idstrom said. "The people that have stepped forward are absolutely fantastic and we're thrilled that they're here."

Idstrom hopes to build the program up over the course of this school year so it is ready to go at full strength in the fall.

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