MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A new program at WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital could prevent students from falling behind during their long-term stays.

The program started in January after local teachers contacted the hospital expressing their concerns for their students. The program offers students the opportunity to stay up-to-date with their school work regardless of their health condition.

“It’s really important for students of that age, that’s their job at that point,” said Katie Ridenour last week on WAJR-Clarksburg’s “The Gary Bowden Show.”

“If they’re missing that, they’re missing a huge part of their growth and development so its really important to keep them connected to what’s going on in their classroom.”

According to Ridenour, who is school intervention specialist, the program assists children that may be in the hospital long-term, battling conditions like cancer, cystic fibrosis or general surgery rehabilitation. The school work comes to them so that they don’t fall behind.

“If everything goes accordingly by the time that the student is ready to go back to the classroom, their work is all caught up,” she said. They’re ready to just jump back into the curriculum where they left off.”

Ridenour says she decided to apply for the position as the school intervention specialist after spending a month in the NICU with her son who was born prematurely at 33 weeks.

“This is kind of typical for a NICU mom to get a special connection to this place,” she said.

With this position, she hopes to assist parents and make hospital and recovery time less stressful for them.

“The parents are on board because that’s something that can be overwhelming to them,” Ridenour said. “If I can take one more responsibility off their plate, at that point, then that’s a good thing for them.”

She also aims to make the hospital a comfortable environment for the students.

“The hospital can be an overwhelming place, a scary place especially for those younger children,” she said, “As much normality as we can provide for them as possible is going to benefit them.”

As of now, most of the teaching is done one-on-one with the patients. However, Ridenour said she has requested a classroom in the new addition to the hospital to foster group instruction.

The program is funded by Credit Union for Kids, a partner with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Fairmont Federal Credit Union donated $6,000 to kick off the partnership.

“In talking with them they just jumped right on board and thought that this was definitely something that they wanted to contribute to,” Ridenour said.

WVU Medicine Children’s will move into a new tower of the hospital in 2020.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Monday, June 4, on the new tower.

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