School families asked to prioritize student attendance
School families asked to prioritize student attendance
Posted on 08/29/2016
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WEST HAVEN, Aug. 30, 2016 —The West Haven Public School District is placing a special focus this year on one of the most critical building blocks for student success: school attendance.

Through Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro’s new “Here!” Campaign for Attendance, the district hopes to see more kids coming to class every day, on time, and remaining in school until the last bell rings.

“I look forward to seeing all of our students in school every day for their full schedule. I’m urging our school families to make attendance a priority from day one,” Cavallaro said.

The full-year effort will include promoting more awareness of absence, tardy and early dismissal policies, a district-wide contest, social media outreach, support from community partners, and various in-school activities.

While the district’s overall attendance record has been improving over the past few years, it can, and should, be even better, Cavallaro said. Last year, absentee rates in the school system made great strides; chronic absenteeism went down to 10 percent, having been at 17 percent of students the year before.

Families are being reminded that absences, tardies and dismissals all add up. Think about it this way: If a student is absent 10 days a year from kindergarten through graduation, they miss 130 days of school—that’s like missing almost 75 percent of an entire school year.

Youngsters who make good attendance a habit typically see more academic success, exhibit a stronger connection and feeling of belonging with their school community, and develop skills and routines that aid them in making positive decisions as they get older. But those with frequent absences have a higher likelihood of falling behind in academics, may feel less confident in class, and may develop bad habits that impact their schooling for years to come.

“We’ve been working on expanding our school and extracurricular offerings, as well as support services, but that won’t make a difference unless students are in the buildings. It all starts with attendance,” Cavallaro said. “Of course students should still stay home if they’re sick. But we’re more actively encouraging families to plan trips, routine doctor appointments or other commitments for their children when schools are closed for vacations or once school is done for the day.”

At times, other difficulties can prevent children from getting to school; for example, families who may not have enough clean clothes for their youngsters or who don’t have back-up transportation if a child misses a school bus face additional obstacles. School social workers and principals have been and continue working with families to provide resources or assistance from an outside agency when possible to ensure nothing stands in the way of a child’s education.

Parents, students and staff will be seeing posters advocating for good attendance throughout school hallways, and will be reminded at Open House Nights, Parent Visiting Days and other events that multiple tardies and early dismissals add up to full absences.

Schools will be releasing an attendance “honor roll” of sorts, and issuing students in younger grades “Attendance Ace” cards to receive stamps for every week they have perfect attendance; a certain amount of stamps will make students eligible for prizes. It will also give students a visual to help them track their progress, whether they need to work on their attendance, are improving, or are a role model in that area for their class. Students with perfect attendance or who show the greatest improvement will receive recognition during the year.

The district is hoping its local partners, like the West Haven Public Library and University of New Haven students who volunteer in city schools, can also help drive home the message when they team up with schools and individual classes for various projects during the year.

And through the “Superintendent’s Attendance Challenge,” schools will be competing to have the best attendance record.

“We’re also encouraging parents and guardians to talk with their children about good attendance,” Cavallaro said. “I look forward to working with our schools and children and their families on this important issue throughout the year.”