Buses were rolling this morning carrying almost half of Salem-Keizer Public Schools’ (SKPS) 42,000 students, but with the back-to-school excitement was another message: “Every Day 24J!” Nearly one in three students in SKPS is chronically absent, and this year, schools and community organizations are collaborating to identify barriers to attendance and develop solutions.
The campaign officially launched at Auburn Elementary, where Principal Katie Shumway identified the shift in weather as one of the contributing factors to absenteeism. Auburn is a neighborhood school, and many of its 700 students live within the one-mile radius of the school, meaning they don’t have access school bus transportation. Through the work of the Every Day 24J committee, One Thousand Soles was able to purchase 50 pairs of rain boots at a reduced cost from Wilco. Students who attended the school’s back-to-school picnic received raffle tickets, and winners will be announced at the school on Mondays and Fridays – the days the school has the lowest attendance. Auburn is just one example of the purpose of Every Day 24J! – to identify barriers, create solutions and encourage positive behaviors.
“We believe that all parents want what’s best for their kids and that’s why we continue to look for ways to build relationships with families and strengthen community partnerships,” said Shumway. “We strive meet families where they’re at and provide the tools and resources necessary to get kids here and learning at Auburn every day. When we begin to see dips in student attendance, our community school outreach coordinator works to find out why and then identifies those resources that can create solutions.”
Additional community organizations have come forward to help provide rain gear for more students.
“We know that September is the most critical month for setting a student’s attendance pattern,” said Superintendent Christy Perry. “What happens during that first month sets the tone for the entire year, and we know there’s a direct correlation between attendance and graduation. We see chronic absenteeism from students across all spectrums – cultural norms and socioeconomic statuses play roles, but we also see students who are performing really well at school who might not see the connection between attendance and employability after graduation. We must all use our sphere of influence to make those connections for our children – their futures depend on it.”
Students who miss just two days of school a month will miss a month of school each year. If a student continues that pattern through elementary and middle school, he or she will have lost an entire year of instruction by ninth grade. According to the Oregon Department of Education, students who attend school regularly are 172 percent more likely to graduate.
South Salem High Senior Kudzai Kapurura shared her perspective as a student: “In high school, you’re an independent, so it’s no longer really your parents telling you to go to school – it’s more of a personal decision. Some students don’t want to go because they don’t feel like they’re included in the community at their school. I think more than it’s credited, that’s a big part of why attendance drops in high school. When students don’t feel included, their grades start to drop. That combination makes people not want to go.”
The Every Day 24J committee comprised of district staff and community members will continue to meet throughout the year to identify benchmarks for success and develop additional solutions to remove barriers for attendance. Through a grant from Kaiser Permanente, the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality is simultaneously developing attendance supports for families in the North Salem High feeder system. For more information on how to support the campaign, please contact Community Relations and Communications at (503) 399-3038 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.