New UNMH program providing schooling for long-term child patients

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Kids staying at the University of New Mexico Hospital can sometimes be there for months or years, making it hard to keep up with a school, but a new program is trying to change that. The Mimbres School program helps students from all over New Mexico go to school at the hospital and on a level that works for them.

“Here, it’s not typical at all because they have MRIs or they have procedures or they’re not feeling well. They’re getting treatments and they’re going to sleep most of the day because they’re taking medication,” said Monica Garcia-Roach, the full-time teacher working with the patients. “We work around them, and the program they’re using is an online program, so if they’re not feeling well during the day, they can work at it in the evening or the weekend.”

Right now, the Mimbres School is a few weeks in and has five children enrolled, ranging from elementary to high school students. It is a state-accredited year-round school. It previously served the UNM Children’s Psychiatric Center, but a donation made it possible for it to expand to the Child Life program at UNM Children’s Hospital.

“This is a huge difference. It’s a whole different ballgame for them. Previously, before this position was here, students lacked that educational piece. What we try to provide here at the hospital is to heal the whole child, to help the whole child. Well, that piece was missing. They were getting the medical side, they were getting the play, but their education was a piece that was lacking,” said Garcia-Roach. “Kids have one job. They all have one thing in common and that’s going to school, so these patients here were missing that.”

UNMH is a level one trauma center, so children from all over the state receive care there. Garcia-Roach says it’s been difficult for many students to keep up with the work or even get their work to them, also causing stress on the parents.

“Prior to that, the parents were trying to coordinate that and would try to bring their work here, but it was really difficult, especially when kids weren’t all from Albuquerque. We’re a level one trauma center so we see kids from all over the state, so it’s real difficult to get all their work, even faxing or things like that,” said Garcia-Roach. “If they’re required to stay here a length of time, they’re missing out at school. I currently am working with a patient who is 18 years old. He’s going toward his GED. He had to drop out as a freshman in high school because of his frequent visits to the hospital.”

The lessons are tailored to each student’s grade level. The students are able to work online from their beds if they want or they can come to the hospital’s classroom and do coursework alongside their fellow patient peers.

“What’s great is they’re all welcome, any child in the hospital, even if they’re here for a day, they’re welcome to come to the classroom and work together from 1 to 3 p.m. They’ll come in here and sit in here and they’re all working together,” said Garcia-Roach. “They’re all at different ages, grade levels, but just that commonality of working together in a classroom together. They’re each during their own thing, but they have peers and they can talk about things, and they’re experiencing similar struggles and challenges.”

To help normalize the experience, the students even go on “field trips” like a recent one where they went to the security department and talked about security in schools and their classrooms. Garcia-Roach says many brought up the fire and lockdown drills they experienced in their home schools and learned that the hospital has similar practices.

The Credit Union Association of New Mexico is helping make the program possible. They recently pledged to donate $81,000 a year for 10 years to fund the program and salary for a full-time teacher.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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