By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD
RIO HONDO — “You want to be in chess club this year?”
“Yes,” 5-year-old Antonio Martinez said with a quick nod.
“I can make that happen,” said Jaclyn Cavazos, a second grade teacher at Rio Hondo Elementary School.
She and dozens of other staff members visited the homes of several students yesterday morning. Each lived in different areas served by the school district, including Canelo Loop, Arroyo Estates and Lozano. All this in preparation for the new school year, which begins Aug. 27 in Rio Hondo.
“We’re visiting one family in each area to give our students a warm welcome and let them know how excited we are for the new school year,” said Bertha Perea, facilitator at Rio Hondo Elementary.
“We are doing this so that our staff gets a genuine understanding of where our students come from,” Perea said. “We want our community to know that we are here to serve them and we hope that by going to them, they will be also encouraged to come to us.”
Lupe Zuniga was delighted the staff came by to see her granddaughter Ryeanne Garza, 5. She watched with great joy as teachers smiled and fussed over the young girl who cradled a tiny dog in her arms.
“They get to know exactly where the kids live and the environment they live in,” Zuniga said. “They can understand the kids better at school.”
Teachers and other staff were likewise enjoying the experience.
“It’s awesome to get to see our kids again,” said Mari Yanez, a pre-kindergarten paraprofessional.
“It’s nice to see them before we come back,” she added.
Parents appreciated the interest in their kids.
“I love it,” said Danielle Martinez, whose two children, Selena and Antonio, stepped into the morning sun dressed sharply in colorful back-to-school clothes.
“It shows they are more interested in the kids,” she said.
At about that moment, Claudia Halvorsen, a first grade teacher, anxiously greeted Martinez’s daughter, Selena, 7.
“Selena, are you ready for school?” Halvorsen asked, to which the young girl replied yes.
“It’s so good to see you,” Halvorsen said. “I missed you so much.”
Staff members revealed an already strong familiarity with the children and parents. A visit to their homes and neighborhoods only strengthened that connection.