Petersburg schools launch attendance campaign to curb chronic absenteeism

Over the weekend Petersburg City Public School administrators and teachers launched a campaign to fight chronic absenteeism in the classroom.
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 7:21 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Over the weekend, Petersburg City Public School administrators and teachers launched a campaign to fight chronic absenteeism in the classroom.

The teachers and administrators focused on neighborhoods of students at risk of being truant by going door to door and speaking directly with them and their parents at their homes.

“We were able to capture quite a few kids back. We also did some targeted visits as well with students we know who we want to get back who haven’t been successfully attending school,” said Tyrus Lyles.

Lyles is the Director of Student Support Services for Peterburg schools. He says that during the weekend, canvassing part of the feedback they received from students and parents was that they wanted to learn to be more engaging so that students would be more inclined to go to school.

“We’re really working on some things within our school division to maker learning more fun and engaging,” Lyles said. “The idea is to work as a partnership, not advisory, so we’re trying to work together. What can we do as a team to get your kid to school?”

But one parent told NBC12 Wednesday that while the attendance campaign is a good start, he believes that parents of chronically absent students need to be held more accountable.

Currently, when a student is absent, the school division has an automatic robocall that is sent out to the parents of the student to tell them that their child was absent from school.

“Kids get out of school, and they do what they want to do. They aren’t paying attention, and half of them don’t even care if their kids have homework,” the parent said. “So it’s going to always be like that as long as nobody is disciplining their children and letting them do what they want to do, it’s going to stay like that.”

Currently, all Petersburg schools are accredited, but Petersburg High School is the only fully accredited school. Vernon Johns Middle School and the other four elementary schools across the city are accredited with conditions, which means they still need to hit specific benchmarks set by the state. One of those being low absentee rates.

Lyles says state guidelines dictate that absenteeism for a school division should not exceed more than 15 percent, which the division currently is hovering above. Additionally, a student is considered chronically absent if they miss more than two days of school per month, which equates to about 18 days or 10 percent of an entire school year.

“We want to make sure that we don’t do that because our accreditation relies on our attendance, so we went into the community canvassing, speaking with parents and community members about the importance of being in school every day,” Lyles said.

Lyles says the school division is seeing greater rates of chronic absences in secondary schools rather than elementary schools, but if these rates persist, it will affect the entire school system.

“Two days is too many. If you miss two days each month, you risk being truant, which is 18 days total for the school year, thus not being able to be accredited as a school district or as a school,” Lyles said.

A Petersburg School Board Meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Petersburg High School, where the detailed report of the absentee rates will be presented.