General image of a person putting their hand on someone's shoulder to  make them feel better

Trevor was missing school more often than making it. His teacher, concerned, came up with an incentive plan for him. Trevor loved fishing and wanted to earn a fishing pole, for every day he made it to class he got closer to his goal. Student support facilitators helped by visiting with him on days he refused to come to school, spending lunch together a few days a week and setting up busing for special education services. Trevor now attends regularly and did so well he earned himself a new fishing pole. *Student names have been changed for this article*

While the continued impact from COVID-19 is still being assessed and measured, after seeing an increase in truancy across all grade levels, Moorhead Area Public Schools created five new positions to help support students with attendance. With money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Moorhead Area Public Schools is proactively addressing impacts from the pandemic like helping students with attendance challenges. Although it can be a tough position, each student support facilitator finds their position rewarding. This dedicated team leads with compassion to connect with students and support their learning. 

Meet the Team

Emily Bitz - Elementary (Robert Asp and Dorothy Dodds)

Ahmed Issa - Elementary (SGR and Ellen Hopkins)

Monica Schneider - Middle School (Horizon West: Grades 5-6)

Kayla Gangl - Middle School (Horizon East: Grades 7-8)

Lindsey Cossette - Moorhead High School (Grade 9)

The trend of behavior problems and truancy is happening across all grade levels. So what’s the solution? “We try to meet parents and students where they are at,” Emily Bitz, elementary student support facilitator says. “Whether it’s figuring out transportation or providing a family with alarm clocks to help them wake up on time, whatever we can do to help, we are there for our families.” 

“If you think about it, they haven’t had a normal school year since elementary school,” says Kayla Gangl, middle school student support facilitator. “Now, they have way more freedom and they didn’t have the opportunity to learn or be prepared for that transition because of COVID.”

Monica Schneider, middle school student support facilitator, enjoys building relationships with students. “Being that one person in a student’s life who is consistent and is there to look out for their best interest is important to me,” she says. “I have a student who stops by every day to give me a hug, because she needs it. I will gladly give her as many hugs as she wants,” says Monica. 

These supports are important for students like Adam, who had missed a lot of school. The student support facilitator connected with the family and introduced them to the Native American Liaison. This was the key and Adam has hardly missed a day of school since. The student support facilitators also try to help out the school social workers by facilitating simple student requests like needing winter gear or personal hygiene supplies. 

Ahmed Issa, elementary student support facilitator, enjoys putting smiles on kids' faces every day. “Telling them we are proud of you, you are here today and you made it is important,” says Issa. “Kids want to come and see me in my office and it makes my day. Building those relationships is so important.” 

At the beginning of November the newest member, Lindsey Cossette, joined the team to help support ninth grade students. 

“All of us want our doors, phones, contact, emails to be wide open for people to contact us with questions or concerns,” Schneider says. “It can be hard to know who to go to in a school. I want to be approachable to help families with resources to help with student attendance.”

“As a district, we are committed to helping students thrive,” says Duane Borgeson, Executive Director of Learner Support Services. “Attendance is the first step. This team of five outstanding professionals that are focused on student success is making a difference for our students.”

Just ask students like Shelby. Since her student support facilitator triggered some adjustments at an IEP team meeting, she has been attending more often, growing more comfortable and enjoying her time in school.