Alief ISD Parent Liaison Johana Santacruz (left) and Communities In Schools of Houston Student Support Specialist Ana Troya (right)—both from Bush Elementary—were among those reaching out to students at their homes in west Houston (Courtesy Photo / CIS)

(HOUSTON) –As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, many Houston-area families are working through major life disruptions that can impact children’s ability to return to school or attend classes virtually. In Alief Independent School District, help is available—and coming to students’ doorsteps.

In neighborhoods and apartment complexes across Houston’s westside, teams of masked Alief ISD educators and student support specialists from the nonprofit Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS) go door to door in search of the smiling faces that have been missing from classrooms since this school year began.

Alief ISD began phasing select grade levels back to school in person on Sept. 21 with remaining in-person students returning Oct. 12, but the district reports a 7.5% decrease in enrollment. That means about 3,400 students, mostly in pre-K and kindergarten, have not attended virtually or in person since the Aug. 6 start date.

“We have over 100 volunteers that are literally going door to door to the addresses that we believe, based on our data of students, should be enrolled in school,” Alief ISD Superintendent HD Chambers told the Texas Tribune.

In partnership with CIS, educators are reaching out to children to help them get back to learning and to offer support with whatever they may need during these overwhelming, trying times. From crisis intervention, trauma and mental health counseling to providing basic necessities and other resources, CIS student support specialists are assigned to school campuses to help break down any barriers to students’ success.

This school year, CIS has been called to support 125,000 students from schools in Alief, Houston, Spring Branch, Aldine and Fort Bend ISDs as well as Southwest Schools and Lone Star Colleges.

“Communities In Schools of Houston is working alongside Alief ISD and our other community, district and campus partners to meet students where they are and assess any barriers they may be facing,” CIS of Houston CEO Lisa Descant said. “We’re here to help educators surround students with a community of support and ensure they are provided with the tools they need to succeed in school and in life.”

This story was originally published by Alief ISD is a member of the Texas School Alliance.