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SJSD launches new attendance awareness campaign

The St. Joseph School District is launching a new attendance awareness campaign after seeing a drop in attendance.

Posted: Jan 4, 2022 4:34 PM
Updated: Jan 5, 2022 9:21 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph School District is launching a new attendance awareness campaign after seeing a drop in attendance.

Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl, Ed.D., said turning around poor attendance is something the district has done before and can do again.

“Attendance is not a new issue for us. Before the pandemic, the district launched its Strive for Five campaign to combat poor attendance that worked and increased our attendance,” Van Zyl said.

A year after the campaign launched, the District reported a 3.5 percent increase in overall attendance rates and as high as a 90 percent attendance rate. But the pandemic erased that progress. So far this year, District officials report attendance has declined every month since school started in August. Officials said December saw a 71 percent attendance rate during December.

District administrators say it's now time to figure out how to get kids back into the classroom and eliminate chronic absenteeism.

“The biggest thing is just reminding students and families that attendance is important and getting to school provides them with more opportunities so hopefully they’ll see that they have been missing out on opportunities and a lot of things they should be doing,” Van Zyl said.

SJSD’s Director of School Improvement Dr. Kendra Lau has her doctorate in Education and said there are mountains of research showing that attendance translates into better grades, test scores, and likelihood to graduate.

“The research is clear that if students are not in school, they miss opportunities and those missed opportunities translate into their future,” Dr. Lau said. “If parents and our community want their students to get the same opportunity as other students, one of the best ways to do that is to ensure that they are in school.”

To help students get to class, Lau said the district’s new attendance awareness campaign goes beyond attendance data and focuses on the physical, emotional, and mental needs of students experiencing chronic absenteeism.

“The awareness includes Attendance Interventionist, Social Workers, Focus on School Climate, Community Partnerships, and Data Tracking. We will have materials like leaderboards, banners, posters, flyers, and additional materials,” Dr. Lau said in an email.

The District plans to launch, "Attendance Comeback" in February.

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Bitter cold temperatures have returned to the area with temperatures in the single digits and wind chills below zero this morning. Temperatures will struggle to warm up today with highs in the 20s under mostly sunny skies. Temperatures will slowly start to warm throughout the rest of the work week as dry weather continues. The weekend looks to be mild and sunny with highs in the 40s.
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