Hopewell launches pilot program to combat truancy

HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - There's a major push to keep kids from ditching school in Hopewell. A pilot program that involves truancy sweeps by police is now underway.

Under the program random home visits are done during  school hours to verify a student's absence.

April Harris is a concerned Hopewell parent.

Harris said when she sees a kid on the street who should be in school, she asks questions.

"Why are you not in school? Where is your mom at? Things like that, " said Harris.

The number of truant students is on the rise at a majority of schools in the city.

"We have far too many young folks that have a considerable number of absences, " said  Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Winston Odom.

To help combat the problem the school system is teaming up with police and district court to conduct truancy sweeps.

An attendance team could show up at your home.  If no one answers the door  a note is left for the parent to contact the school as soon as possible.

"Often times the young person is there -- then a conversation is held with the young person. If a parent can be notified or if there's a parent in the home permission is requested to transport the person to school, " Odom said.

If a student continues to ditch class without permission the school system can file a petition in court.

"What we want to do is send a message to kids and parents that there are consequences," Odom said.

Experts say, truant students are more likely to drop out of school which  often leads to bigger problems.

"When you choose not to get a quality education that has a negative impact and serious consequences later down the road for other potential actions such as criminal incarceration," Odom said.

School leaders say they'll continue to come up with ways to help ensure that all students make it a priority to attend school daily.

The truancy  pilot program will be evaluated in one year,  then a decision will be made on wether it will continue.

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