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Going Door-to-Door to Find Out Why Elementary Students Aren't Making It to School

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Rochester: Going Door-to-Door to Find Out Why Elementary Students Aren't Making It to School
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Often times when we think of truancy, we think of teenagers skipping school, but it is becoming a larger problem than that. Truancy can start as early as kindergarten. It's a problem that the city school district is tackling in the elementary schools.

A knock on the door sometimes ended with no one home.

But Rochester City School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, along with volunteers, walked in some predominately Spanish-speaking neighborhoods on Thursday, hoping to bridge the language barrier and find out why children are not in school.

"When a child is in kindergarten and that child is not going to school, we cannot say that it is the child's problem; that is a community issue that we all need to deal with," Vargas said.

According to the Rochester City School District, attendance records show more than 1,000 students have been absent more than half the days this school year. 140 students have never shown up.

"We would not be able to improve student achievement if we continue to have the kind of attendance issue that we are having," said Vargas.

School officials say there are several reasons why a child is absent. Some families have moved, or are spending time out of the country. At one home on Jay Street, a medical condition is keeping a student out of school.

"If a child cannot come to school because of health-related issue, we send a teacher home," Vargas said.

Not far from Jay Street, a family struggles with transportation problems, as the child continually misses the bus.

"But that is unacceptable, the fact is that you have to get your child to school one way or another and that message has been made clear," said Vargas.

Vargas is calling on volunteers to help spread this message throughout the community. One of those volunteers is Dr. Walter Cooper, a former member of the state board of regents.

"Parents are not often well informed of the services that are available to them," Cooper said.

School 30 is one of four elementary schools targeted by the district Thursday in its effort to reach out to those families who may need services to help keep their kids in school.

"We are ready to support them, this county is very blessed and this community is very fortunate because we have a lot of services," said Vargas.

In order to enforce school attendance policies, the city school district plans to continue with its monthly truancy blitzes across city neighborhoods.

"I want to believe that every parent would like to see their child get a good quality education as a stepping stone to an adult life that which will be characterized by high quality," Cooper said.

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