DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools Community District workers hit the pavement this week, hoping to reach thousands of students they haven’t been in contact with since March. Their goal was to find out what the students wanted to attend class this fall.
Last week, Detroit schools gave parents and students a choice between in person or online class when the school year starts. The choice is to be made on a survey sent to enrolled households.
“This is the meat of what we do is engage with our communities and families so we’re out here,” Jennifer Whitted, who works in the District’s Office of Family and Community Engagement said.
She knocked on doors along side Valencia Sweeney. Sweeney, a grandparent of DPSD students, is a member of the parent action group.
The pair were one of 17 different canvasing groups across the city, according to Whitted. The east English duo was not having the best of luck reaching students in the neighborhood in which they were met by Local 4. If a student didn’t answer, it would be marked and a phone call would be tried to reach the parent along with another follow up visit.
“Probably tomorrow, because we got to cover as many as we can today. So we’re going to address 5219 Tow,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney and Whitted said their responses so far had been for online learning, which is a growing trend they said.
“We’ve got one young man who said he’d be going online and one young lady who said she’d be going online which is kind of consistent with the respondents,” Whitted said.
The work is long. But eventually they found some parents, like Armanda Coleman who has several kids with special needs in the district. She said they chose online learning but is glad workers are out for parents who haven’t made up their minds.
“They have someone knock on their door. That’s a blessing,” Coleman said. “Now they got somebody that can at least help me out to do something, I think that’s great.”
After Coleman it was back at it, certainly not what the canvasing duo thought they’d be doing with school right around the corner.
“I think we were all in such a place you didn’t know what you’d be doing,” Sweeney said. “But you’re ready to do whatever needs to be done,” Whitted added.
Getting students to respond to the survey is more than just making sure they’re be in school, although it is the priority. There are worries over parts of the district’s state funding if students aren’t accounted for during the 2020-2021 school year. A portion of state funding is determined on enrollment count in October and February each year.
DPSCD is encouraging parents and guardians to be on the look-out for their workers to make sure they get the survey filled out. The deadline is Aug. 21.
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