SB school district aims to recover students from chronic absenteeism

Photo Maryjoy Duncan: Youth Services Bilingual Attendant Adrian Islas shown speaking with a parent about possible solutions to her children's multiple school absences during Operation Student Recovery Tuesday morning.
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A team of approximately 100 San Bernardino City Unified School District managers and community leaders fanned out across the city to conduct home visits Tuesday morning to students identified to be at risk of becoming chronically absent. The objectives of Operation Student Recovery (OSR), Youth Services Director Marlene Bicondova outlined during the informational briefing, were to positively impact the life of students by helping them improve attendance, and to contribute to the improvement of the district’s chronic absenteeism goals.

Photo Maryjoy Duncan: Youth Services Director Marlene Bicondova and Assistant Director of Enrollment and Placement Services Leonard Buckner visit several homes Tuesday morning during Operation Student Recovery.

“Personal contact makes the biggest difference,” Bicondova explained. “We want families to know that we are here to serve them and that we care.”

18 or more absences define chronic absenteeism. OSR teams, comprised of two volunteers assigned 10 – 12 residences, called on the last-known addresses of students who exhibit warning signs of becoming chronically absent – missing 10 – 17 days this current school-year-to-date.

“Students come to school when relationships are there; we build relationships with families when they see us make the time and effort to come out,” declared Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Dr. Lorraine Perez. “We are here to provide the resources to help get students back in school.”

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Each team provided families with a list of resources that include locations for hot meals, free groceries, job and employment services and support for the disabled, if needed. A school attendance guideline, ideal times students should sleep and rise, how many absences constitute chronic absenteeism, and school-specific resources were also handed out.

“If there is anything that we can help you with, please call us,” Adrian Islas, Youth Services Bilingual Attendant, said to a guardian during OSR.

“We approach families without any judgment,” explained Leonard Buckner, Assistant Director of Enrollment and Placement Services who participated in OSR for the second time. “We want (families) to know that we’re here to help them.”

According to SBCUSD Communications Officer Maria Garcia, there isn’t one prominent reason for truancy.

A range of causes may include lack of transportation, mental health or behavioral issues, difficulty waking up on time, student obstinacy, homelessness, bullying, bad grades, pregnancy and other impediments.

“After a home visit families usually make sure their students are back in school,” Bicondova said. The day after OSR was conducted in 2018, 86% of students contacted were back in the classroom.

The district’s rate in 2018 was 13.6% among students in K – 8, compared to the state chronic absenteeism rate of 9%.

According to research published in the National Education Association, “Children who are chronically absent have lower levels of school readiness upon entering kindergarten, are less likely to read at grade level by the third grade, show lower levels of social engagement, are more likely to drop out of school, and less likely to graduate from high school or college. All of these negative outcomes limit the long-term success of students in school and into adulthood.”

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