DETROIT – Giving children the best education they can get starts with ensuring they come to school daily. But in Detroit, students missing school regularly is a real problem.
I’ve been doing stories highlighting chronic absenteeism in Detroit Public Schools this month. It’s a problem that’s only been exacerbated since the pandemic, and the district is taking aggressive steps to reverse it.
One of the things the Detroit Public School Community District is doing to combat chronic absenteeism is they’ve hired attendance agents like Effie Harris.
Harris arrives early and greets each student every day, many by name. She builds a connection with the kids and identifies why they’re absent or can’t get to school on time.
“It can start off with a phone call home to say, ‘mom, dad, you know so and so has not been here, what’s going on,’” said Harris.
The reasons students miss class may have more to do with their families not having stable access to resources that will help get kids to school.
That was the case with Jonnetta Burnett.
Burnett’s daughter passed away, and she immediately took over the care and custody of her daughter’s five children. Retired and on a fixed income, Burnett didn’t know how she would make ends meet or get five kids to different schools.
But then she found out about the district’s Family Resource Distribution Center.
“I ain’t got nobody else like no family member to help me, but since they came, it’s like family,” said Burnett. “They supported me with the kids’ uniforms, and I didn’t have it. I feel very blessed because when they came to me, they didn’t have nothing.”
The Family Resource Distribution Center is a place where DPSCD families can receive resources such as school supplies, coats, water, dry goods, and hygiene products for free.
“If there wasn’t a resource like this, then it would be a lot harder,” said one woman.
“It’s been a struggle, Burnett said. “A real struggle, but when you got support that’s some big help. I get emotional because I miss my daughter and when you get support, it makes it easier. And when you have nobody it’s hard.”
So those are just a couple of ways the district is working to combat those issues of chronic absenteeism.
We’re taking an in-depth look at how to solve the chronic absenteeism problem.
I’ll be emceeing a townhall event with Detroit Public Schools Community District on Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti will join me to discuss the district’s attendance and academic achievement challenges.
Then there will be a panel discussion with Sharlonda Buckman, assistant superintendent with the DPSCD office of family and community engagement, Alycia Meriweather, Deputy Superintendent of External Partnerships and Innovation, and Harris.
The townhall will be held at Mumford High School and everyone is encouraged to attend.
DPSCD parents wanting more resources can click here.