WEST HAVEN, Aug. 30,
2016 —The West Haven Public School District is placing a special focus
this year on one of the most critical building blocks for student
success: school attendance.
Through Superintendent of Schools Neil C. Cavallaro’s
new “Here!” Campaign for Attendance, the district hopes to see more kids
coming to class every day, on time, and remaining in school until the
last bell rings.
“I look forward to seeing all of our students in
school every day for their full schedule. I’m urging our school families
to make attendance a priority from day one,” Cavallaro said.
The full-year effort will include promoting more
awareness of absence, tardy and early dismissal policies, a
district-wide contest, social media outreach, support from community
partners, and various in-school activities.
While the district’s overall attendance record has
been improving over the past few years, it can, and should, be even
better, Cavallaro said. Last year, absentee rates in the school system
made great strides; chronic absenteeism went down to 10 percent, having
been at 17 percent of students the year before.
Families are being reminded that absences, tardies and
dismissals all add up. Think about it this way: If a student is absent
10 days a year from kindergarten through graduation, they miss 130 days
of school—that’s like missing almost 75 percent of an entire school
Youngsters who make good attendance a habit typically
see more academic success, exhibit a stronger connection and feeling of
belonging with their school community, and develop skills and routines
that aid them in making positive decisions as they get older. But those
with frequent absences have a higher likelihood of falling behind in
academics, may feel less confident in class, and may develop bad habits
that impact their schooling for years to come.
“We’ve been working on expanding our school and
extracurricular offerings, as well as support services, but that won’t
make a difference unless students are in the buildings. It all starts
with attendance,” Cavallaro said. “Of course students should still stay
home if they’re sick. But we’re more actively encouraging families to
plan trips, routine doctor appointments or other commitments for their
children when schools are closed for vacations or once school is done
for the day.”
At times, other difficulties can prevent children from
getting to school; for example, families who may not have enough clean
clothes for their youngsters or who don’t have back-up transportation if
a child misses a school bus face additional obstacles. School social
workers and principals have been and continue working with families to
provide resources or assistance from an outside agency when possible to
ensure nothing stands in the way of a child’s education.
Parents, students and staff will be seeing posters
advocating for good attendance throughout school hallways, and will be
reminded at Open House Nights, Parent Visiting Days and other events
that multiple tardies and early dismissals add up to full absences.
Schools will be releasing an attendance “honor roll”
of sorts, and issuing students in younger grades “Attendance Ace” cards
to receive stamps for every week they have perfect attendance; a certain
amount of stamps will make students eligible for prizes. It will also
give students a visual to help them track their progress, whether they
need to work on their attendance, are improving, or are a role model in
that area for their class. Students with perfect attendance or who show
the greatest improvement will receive recognition during the year.
The district is hoping its local partners, like the
West Haven Public Library and University of New Haven students who
volunteer in city schools, can also help drive home the message when
they team up with schools and individual classes for various projects
during the year.
And through the “Superintendent’s Attendance Challenge,” schools will be competing to have the best attendance record.
“We’re also encouraging parents and guardians to talk
with their children about good attendance,” Cavallaro said. “I look
forward to working with our schools and children and their families on
this important issue throughout the year.”