We have said it before, and it bears repeating: You must be in school to succeed in school. It sounds obvious. But in reality, it’s a real challenge and it’s one that our community needs to address.
It’s an issue that will need action from school and city officials as well as nonprofit organizations and families.
This month, the state released report cards that indicated absenteeism is an issue for Racine Unified School District as well as districts throughout the state.
At the start of this school year, The Journal Times published a two-part series on the struggles some students go through getting to school. Current law says that those who live farther than two miles from school must be provided transportation. But anyone living fewer than two miles from school must figure out for themselves how to get to school.
This is a challenge for parents who don’t want their children to walk that far in the cold and in the dark. Some parents have work commitments that prohibit them from driving their children in the morning. Others may not have a car or are unable to drive due to restrictions or health reasons.
In that same series, The Journal Times reported that more than a year ago, the Racine City Council passed a resolution that aimed to make city transportation more affordable for Racine Unified students who don’t receive free busing. But since the passage of that resolution on Aug. 2, 2017, no plan for Unified students to use the city’s RYDE bus system has been implemented.
That is a program that needs to be put in place. A new bus pass program will not solve the problem entirely, but it would help.
At one Milwaukee school, a new program called a “walking bus” was initiated, according to a Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service report.
All Lincoln Avenue School children on the “walking bus” route are hand-picked by school staff, including social workers, because of spotty attendance. The school plans to continue to monitor attendance patterns and invite families that would benefit to join the program.
According to Yaribel Rodriguez, the school’s principal, students who have been going to school more because of the route have been submitting more classwork and getting higher grades.
And some of the biggest endorsements come from the kids: “It’s fun,” said Jonathan Alvarado, 10. “It motivates me. I like to go to school more.”
That sounds like an idea worth trying here.
At the same time, another look should be taken regarding penalties in place for high school students who skip school. Can more be done to provide incentive for them to be in school? What if the consequence for not showing up to school during the week was community service on Saturday and Sunday?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to school absenteeism. But it’s one that needs to be addressed and taken seriously by the whole community.