Bliss holds school town hall
Editor’s note: The following Facebook town hall transcript has been edited for space and grammar; however, to preserve the integrity of the transcript, editing has been minimal.
Fort Bliss held its quarterly town hall meeting the evening of July 19. With the 2012-2013 school year beginning next month, the town hall focused on education. It allowed parents an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns with area school district representatives. About 25 representatives from three school districts, Fort Bliss School Liaison Office, and Child and Youth Services staffs were available to respond to questions received via an email and live during the Facebook town hall. Col. Brant V. Dayley and Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip D. Pandy, Fort Bliss garrison commander and command sergeant major, respectively, hosted the event.
Col. Dayley: Good evening and welcome to tonight’s town hall. The wall will open for comments momentarily. In preparation for the start of the new school year, we will be focusing on the procedures and requirements for Fort Bliss and the area school districts.
Again, welcome to this evening’s discussion, and let’s begin.
Holly: Why is it that EPISD only applied to receive federal funds allocated to deteriorating military schools on behalf of one elementary school on Fort Bliss, Logan Elementary? We have three schools at least on the top of the national list for the most dated and deteriorated facilities on military posts nationwide. Why would you have not applied for more funds and for more schools to be improved?
EPISD: This was a school identified by the Dept. of Ed as a most need. It was the only school EPISD was allowed to apply for under the funding source.
Mindy: I home schooled my child last year and this year he is a freshman. He has an ARD and I was wondering how do I put him into Chapin? Is there a test that he is able to take before the school year starts to ensure he will be a freshman?
EPISD: Is your home schooling program accredited?
Mindy: Honestly I just bought books and had him do it because I didn’t know what else to do.
EPISD: You can contact the school administration at Chapin and provide the information to them. Chapin can arrange for testing with our Research Department prior to the beginning of school.
Tia: I am trying to find out if there is a head start for my little girl. She will be 3 in Sept.
Selena: That’s also what I need to know. My daughter will be 4 in October; I need to know if she can go to school. We live on Fort Bliss.
SLS: Head Start has different programs and their main number is 790-4600. They can tell you what the eligibility requirements are and what center is nearest to you. Registration is held at the center closest to you.
Holly: I want to know more about how the assessment and evaluations are done on the schools to determine if they’re overcrowded? Why are parents not involved in this process nor asked for their opinion or surveyed before this determination is made? I know that Milam Elementary is horrifically overcrowded yet it was found by the evaluators to not be, apparently using an MWR model. I’m sure you can see how this would be frustrating to a parent watching their children deal with blatantly overcrowded conditions. How could such an overcrowded school be determined to not be so and what would it take for this determination to be reconsidered?
EPISD: We have a continuing needs assessment process. We look at facility size and teacher allocations. If there is a concern of overcrowding, it can be brought to the attention of the principal and/or the division at Central Office. Please refer to our website for contact information at www.episd.org.
Holly: Do you think this assessment is working properly? Why is my children’s school so overcrowded if you’ve assessed it? Have you considered surveying parents to find out what they think?
David N Tammie: We just arrived here and my kids will be in the Socorro School District, but do I take them to the school to register?
SISD: Yes. Go to www.sisd.net. On the home page there is information on registration for our schools.
Kimberly: My son will be going to the same school as last year (EPISD). My family will be out of town during registration. Can I register during the pre-registration event or can I do it right before we leave around Aug. 10?
EPISD: Yes, please contact the school administration and they will help you out.
Kimberly: Awesome, thank you.
EPISD: Will alert the administration if you let me know what school your son attends.
Kimberly: Burnett Elementary
Tell it to COL D: The EPISD schools offering pre-registration on Aug. 2 are:
Tom Lea Elementary
Bassett Middle School
Richardson Middle School
Ross Middle School
Andress High School
Austin High School
Burges High School
Chapin High School
Jerrone: Why is there no school on this side of main post and housing continues to build housing for officers but they failed to build a school in that neighborhood – Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart gates? Unfortunately, our kids have to be transported to school by bus. Needless to say, Hughey Elementary that the kids are assigned to is extremely in poor quality and condition. Lack of security is also a major concern, and instead of addressing the problem the EPISD is adding to the school to make it bigger. This is crazy because this approach fails to address the problem. Besides, school is the cornerstone in any effort to build a stronger community and I do believe we are failing our children by moving to on-post housing. The school situation needs to be addressed soon because more Soldiers and families are moving to Fort Bliss and we failed to have school for these kids!
EPISD: EPISD has a demographer that works very closely with Fort Bliss. This will continue to be evaluated as the need changes or grows.
Holly: Is there any consideration for building a new elementary school on Fort Bliss? If not, why not? How could an installation expand this much and there not be a plan to build new facilities for schooling?
EPISD: EPISD has a demographer that works closely with Fort Bliss. This will continue to be evaluated as the need changes or grows.
Holly: It already grew and the change is long past being needed!
Christopher: I don’t know if this has been asked yet, but why on main post are the last three streets on the other side of the housing office (Victory, Wolff, etc.) not able to go to Bliss Elementary on post? They have to go off post – makes absolutely no sense.
Tell it to COL D: It’s based on a 1970s ruling called MALDEF that desegregated El Paso schools, and as a result certain parts of the installation are re-zoned (such as Aero Vista community is zoned for Austin H.S.)
Christopher: Well, is there a form they can fill out to go to Bliss Elementary? Makes no sense that all of the houses on main post by the PX go to Bliss Elementary except these three streets, and I understand it’s not a DoD school but non-military kids go to Bliss and these kids on post in the same area as the school, cannot go to that school **NOT FAIR**
EPISD: Fill out a Pupil Transfer Form found under www.EPISD.org Departments at top of page, scroll down to Pupil Services, click on it and the form is the last item on the right side.
Elizabeth: What can you do to guarantee a healthy lunch at school? Last year I saw pictures of what the kids at Bliss Elementary were eating and that was unacceptable. It was a tiny piece of cheese stick!
Christopher: Yep that was me who took that picture. I can post it again if you need me to.
Bethie: Yeah, what can we do to guarantee a healthy lunch at school?
EPISD: Please go to www.episd.org/_departments/food_services/ and review our healthy lunch options.
Elizabeth: I’m sorry, but for me this is not an answer. One thing is there and a completely different lunch is what the kids are getting.
Amanda: I have to agree, this doesn’t answer the question that was asked. Last year our kids were served basically what amounts to bread and sauce. What we want to know is, is that going to change? Can we expect the schools to be serving a healthy lunch this school year?
Bethie: I agree as well. I pay for my son’s school lunch. He doesn’t even eat at the school some of the days. He would tell me the food is nasty. I would have to say the school menu needs to get better.
Aixa: Last year we had to provide my daughter with milk for the first month of school for lunch because the school only provided chocolate milk. We qualified for free lunch. The school refused all my requests and asked for us to provide a letter from her doctor in order to provide her with regular milk. Col. Joe took care of that immediately when I made him aware of the situation! God bless him. That situation was at Bliss Elementary.
EPISD: Contact 887-6500 and ask to speak to the director.
Tia: For EPISD, can you tell me when is pre-registration? I have to go in to have a C-section on the 13th so I am trying to get my son enrolled into school.
EPISD: Please contact your school and they can make arrangements to help you out. Is your child new to the school?
Tia: Yes, he is
EPISD: Military registration is Aug. 2nd, if you are available. The online registration should be available next week at episd.org
Email question: Is there something that is going to be done about Bassett Middle School? Because that is the reason my son was home schooled. We had his ARD and there was someone from state there that told the school that they have not tried to help my child like they should have. They put him in Alternative without giving me or my husband notice, and a student would threaten and make him angry all the time by harassing him. And yes, I did go to district, and no one there seemed to care. I fought to have him go to Canyon and they did everything to kick him out, because they openly told me they didn’t want him there. So he gets kicked out because some other child harassed him (even the police officer working at the school said he didn’t do anything). It seems to me that EPISD does not want special ed students.
Cheryl: My daughter is attending an online academy due to the problems at Bassett, so I would love to know the answer to this.
Pandy: Jennifer Landry, staff development and instructional support specialist in the Division of Special Education, is with us this evening. She asked that you give her a call so that she may address your question. Her number is 881-2517.
Amy: What sorts of speech therapy are available for preschool-age kids at Logan Elementary that may not be able to attend preschool and will only be in the area every other month for education? Is that a situation that can be worked around in EPISD? It was in YISD. How would I get a hold of them? I emailed Logan Elementary a couple days ago and tried calling their office and figured I was just trying for contact too early.
EPISD: You will need to contact the speech therapist at Logan. The speech therapist will be back on duty August 20th.
SLO: The person at Region 19 Educational Service Center is Anne Hernandez, project director-ECI, 780-6575. She can assist you with information.
Jessica: With so many districts serving our kids, it is frustrating to see the needs of special needs kids varying based on where you live. I have heard that a school here will allow outside persons who work with a child to be part of the special needs team and actually visit the campus to make sure everyone is addressing issues the same way while another district will not allow access, citing privacy issues? If student teachers and college students are allowed to observe the classes by just having parents sign a form, could this not be used to address allowing Applied Behavior Analysts (who are screened by TRICARE) on campus with proper advance notice so that our kids can get the best services available? Most of the kids that would benefit from this are in self-contained or special-needs classes and I can’t see parents of other special-needs kids saying no, but the district won’t even try or ask. Don’t our kids deserve the opportunity for us to at least ask?
Command Sgt. Maj. Phillip Pandy: Jessica, what school district does your child attend?
Jessica: My children will be in EPISD.
YISD: Not knowing which district you are questioning, please contact the director of special education in that district. For YISD, the executive director is Angel Nieto.
EPISD: Jessica, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to send you a copy of the district policy regarding this.
Jessica: I will email now. I look forward to discussing this policy with you all further and addressing the concerns of parents in the district concerning this.
EPISD: I will be back in my office Monday morning. I will email you then.
Email Question: Why is it so hard to transfer a student to another school, especially if we do not feel safe sending our child to a certain school?
YISD: Usually, if a student is unable to transfer, it is due to the overcrowding within that school.
EPISD: Transfer requests are based upon reasons and space availability at the campus. If it is a safety concern, we normally ask for documentation and you may also speak to the campus administrator of the requesting school. If it is a voluntary transfer, no school busing is provided. If transfer is denied, you have the right to appeal. Have you submitted a transfer request?
Jennifer: This question is for Ysleta School District. My family and I are currently living out of the area while my husband is deployed. My husband is set to be home this month, but he has leave during the month of August, which is when registration for school is. We were wondering if there would be any way he could register our son for school before he heads off on leave so our son can start school on Aug. 27th along with the rest of the students?
YISD: Absolutely. Please contact the school directly and speak to the campus principal. If you let us know which school, we can contact the school for you.
Jennifer: It is Desertaire Elementary. I have emailed the principal directly several times with no response. I would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide me. Thank you.
YISD: Desertaire has a new principal who came on board within the past two weeks. Mary Ann Olivas is the principal’s name. Her email should be available at the new school. If you continue to have difficulty reaching her, please contact our office (Guidance and Counseling) at 434-0748 and say you spoke with us on Facebook.
Jennifer: Is there any way I may contact her via email? If so, may I have her school email?
YISD: Mary Ann Olivas, principal – email is email@example.com.
Email question for CYSS: My son turns 6 at the beginning of August. Can he still go to the CDC for hourly care after his birthday before school starts at the end of the month? If not, what day care type options are available for him? Thank you.
Pandy: Children will transition from CDC to SAS on the first day of school, using the EPISD calendar. Your son will continue to use the CDC for hourly care until his transition on the first day of school.
Selena: My questions are 1) is there some kind of tutoring at Hughey for first graders and if not where can I get him tutored? And also, my daughter will be 4 in October. Is there somewhere I can send her to school?
EPISD: Each campus creates a tutoring schedule. Please contact your campus principal for the times. There are CDL and Headstart options in El Paso.
SISD: tutor.com/military is free for military. An excellent resource available 24/7
SLO: Tutor.com is a great resource for military children, and it’s free to the family! There is a “live” teacher at the other end of the computer and students can receive assistance regardless of the grade level. You can call on the weekend, at night, etc.
Holly: This question is for the Fort Bliss School Liaison Office: Is it ever a consideration to re-instate the DoD school system back to Fort Bliss or any other military installation? i.e. if a district were just decided to be doing an extremely poor job of serving our military children would it ever be considered that the contract be taken away from them? How would you decide or ascertain this? What level of outcry or poor satisfaction by military families would be enough to get a huge overly burdened district removed from our post? Would it have to be command that would initiate this? How does that work?
SLO: There are currently no DoD schools being considered for Fort Bliss. The criteria for building DoD schools is that the school district does not provide equal educational opportunities for students as other students in the same state receive. Our schools do meet the standard. Fort Bliss works closely with the schools on post and the El Paso ISD to ensure that our children are receiving quality education and care.
Holly: I had thought that DoD schools were needed when the local district did not provide quality on par with the rest of the country? That way the children would get to keep to a similar standard as they moved from state to state? I’m quite sure that the actual state standards the military installation is within do not and should not be the yardstick to measure by. So no level of dissatisfaction by military families would ever be enough to initiate that change over?
Jerrone: Thank you so much for this question, Holly!
Holly: My kids and our kids come first, right? Plus, maybe they have bigger problems to worry about. I also must say that I feel the staff and teachers at the schools have thus far been wonderful, in my opinion. It’s just that I feel the district is truly failing them and our children! Especially the ones on or near Fort Bliss!
Email question for EPISD: We just got to El Paso and have a son starting first grade. I found out from the health services department today that the teachers don’t put sunscreen on students before recess and am shocked. If our fair-skinned child is to be burn-free, they said he needs to sacrifice what little recess time they get by going to the school nurse to apply it (and only after providing a doctor’s note to state the obvious, that sunscreen is important!) Is this really true? It sounds like the school district is asking for a generation of cancer patients! I know it’s time-consuming, but kids’ health and safety need to matter, so I really hope the information I was given is wrong. Thank you in advance for clarifying!
EPISD: We work with each child’s needs. Please contact your campus administration so that an appropriate plan can be put in place to assist you.
Jessica: I don’t know if this will work for you, but maybe you can ask his teacher if she can help you out in this regard. Maybe if you explain the situation and also explain that you don’t want his recess to be taken away, she may be willing to help him put on sunscreen. My daughter has extremely sensitive skin so I had to provide her own soap and hand sanitizer, and her teacher was very supportive and receptive. I also did not have to provide her with a doctor’s note.
Email question: I am curious if Logan Heights Elementary school kids wear uniforms or not?
EPISD: As far as we know they don’t have a uniform policy. We recommend you contact the school at 231-2720.
Gloria: My family will be new to Fort Bliss this fall. How can we enroll our children after the school year has already started?
YISD: If you go directly to the school your child will attend, the school personnel will register you at that time.
EPISD: Schools register all year long. When you arrive in El Paso, just contact your school.
SISD: Once school has started, you will be able to register your child in person at the campus.
Pandy: Schools that are heavily impacted by military students are offering pre-registration Aug. 2 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. Contact the School Liaison Office at 569-5064 to see if your home school is participating in this pre-registration event.
SLO: Please call our office or come by the Welcome Center, Bldg. 503B (569-5064). If you have an address we can tell you what the school your child will be attending is and offer you other information. You will enroll your child at the school … he/she is attending. Most school districts have an Aug. 27 start date with the exception of Socorro ISD who will start school July 30. You want to enroll your child as soon as you arrive. You can enroll even based on a hotel address.
Tiffany: When will EPISD be re-evaluating their policy concerning the use of ABA therapists in the schools? Other districts are already using them, and EPISD seems behind the times. I have seen the policy as it was presented to me several times this year when my son needed more help. The teacher was ready for it, the principal was hesitant, and the district was absolutely against it. Please make the time to reconsider this outdated policy that is preventing so many children from getting some extra help at school.
EPISD: As with all policies that are in place, we do review them. We do have instructional support specialists in the Special Education office that are able to work with campuses. If you would like to contact me, my office number is 881-2520.
Email question: Can/do they test in for the pre-K programs here? I was told my 3-year-old can’t go to Headstart that is in/near our housing area because my husband makes $300 too much per year, but she can’t go to pre-K because her birthday is the day after Christmas. I know if she is tested, it would be found she is ready for school, as she knows more of the basics than her sister did when she started pre-K. There is only so much I can do at home for her, and I want her to have the best, so is there anything that can be done?
EPISD: We are sorry there is no testing for pre-K. There is a Child Development Lab program at each of the high schools for 3- and 4-year-olds. Contact the high school closest to you to inquire about the program.
Jessica: Is the Child Development Lab program only for EPISD? How can we find more information about the program? I am not sure which high school is closest to me. We also live in YISD.
EPISD: Contact YISD central office and they will tell you if they have a similar program in YISD.
Mindy: If you live in EPISD, can you transfer to another district if you are willing to drive your child?
EPISD: EPISD accepts transfers for military students. Each district has their own policies to accept students from outside the district. You must contact the district you wish to attend.
SISD: In Socorro we have a transfer policy; you may contact Lupe Lujan at 937-0053 for more information.
SLO: Ysleta ISD is an open-enrollment district. They will consider in inter-district transfer if there is room at the accepting school and there is no charge. Clint ISD will also accept inter-district transfers and charge tuition for this option. Socorro ISD is closed due to the fact they are at capacity.
YISD: In the Ysleta District, if you contact Pupil and Parent Services, staff there will give you information to help you transfer your child to the school you want to attend. This is provided that the school is not overcrowded. Contact PPS at 434-0740.
Wendy: Regarding Youth Services, I want to give kudos to Fort Bliss for all of the kids’ programs available. We PCS soon and will certainly miss the convenience, cost and variety!
Pandy: Wendy, thank you for the kudos. We are proud of our CYSS and Youth Services Program. Best of luck at your next installation.
Tell it to COL D: Wendy, thank you for the kind comments. We’re very proud of our staff, and I will be sure to recognize these folks for our efforts.
Gloria: Good evening, my family will be new to Fort Bliss this fall. How can we enroll our children after the school year has already started?
EPISD: Schools register all year long, just contact your school and they will enroll your children.
Jenni: Which school district do I belong to? I live in the northeast and my daughter is 4. Can she attend pre-school or kindergarten? Can she attend a school on post even though we live off post?
YISD: East of McCombs is Ysleta ISD. West of McCombs is El Paso ISD.
EPISD: The district will depend on your street. What street do you live on?
YISD: A student needs to be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 to qualify for pre-K.
Pandy: Your zoned school will depend on your address. If you’re not comfortable putting your address on Facebook, please call the SLO office at 569-5064 and they will help you determine what school your child goes to.
SLO: The northeast is served by both the El Paso ISD and Ysleta ISD. You can call our office and provide us with your address and we can tell you what school your child will attend. Call us at 569-5064. El Paso ISD will allow for transfers for military-connected children if there is space at receiving school.
Aixa: EPISD: I’m trying to get the Asthma Plan forms required by you filled out by my child’s pediatrician but cannot find them anywhere on your website. I got the Allergy Food Plan ones and the meds, but cannot find the asthma ones to print out. Where else can I get these in time for the physicals?
EPISD: Contact Health Services at 887-6716
Jessica: Why is the summer food program only offered on main post when so many families live off post and may not have transportation to post to participate? I live by Powell and haven’t seen any activity over here to indicate, and I haven’t seen anything about locations other than on post.
Pandy: CYSS summer food program is being offered through the beginning of school at Main CDC, which is across from the post office; at the YouthPlex on Chaffee Road; and at Bliss SAC by Bliss Elementary School.
EPISD: The EPISD program is over. Contact Food Services at 887-6500
Pandy: Due to transitions, the program was not offered at Logan CDC; provided there is space and resources, it will be offered next year. Please check with our main Parent Central Services.
Tell it to COL D: Remember to keep an eye out for any follow up answers on my page and in The Monitor. I am impressed with the questions asked this evening. They will provide the entire community with an informative resource and demonstrate the commitment Team Bliss parents have to the education of their children.
Fort Bliss units have established more than 60 partnerships with area schools and our Soldiers donate thousands of hours to working with school children providing mentorship and tutoring, thus helping to develop the open relationship we have with the school districts.
The School Liaison Office is always available to help parents with any issue they are having or information they are looking for: www.blissmwr.com/sts/
Again, this was a great discussion, and I thank you all for attending.
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