District Battles High Truancy Rate


DECATUR- Missing school hurts the students, the schools and the community.

"I will tell you that in this district, we really continue trying," says Decatur Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Lisa Mann. 

Trying to keep kids in school and making sure they go is a tough task.

"Youve got families, you've got staff, you've got community resources.  We all have to come together to decrease the truancy rate," says School Intervention Coordinator Tyrie Baltimore.

At Eisenhower High School, 40 percent of students are chronically truant, meaning they miss 9 or more days of school without an excuse. At MacArthur that number's 35 percent. The state average is 8.6 percent.

Deputy Superintendent Lisa Mann says limited resources are part of the problem. 

"Probably not enough people, but as much as we can afford with the grand funding that we have," Mann says.

School Improvement Grant funding pays for Tyrie Baltimore, one of two school interventionists at Eisenhower.  A big part of her job is getting kids to come to school.

"You have to start building relationships with the students and you have to start building relationships with the families," Baltimore says.

She says truants aren't all delinquents and the reasons they don't come to school are complex.

"You hear transportation, you hear uniforms, you hear family concerns things going on inside of the homes, we have students who are parents," she says.

Part of Baltimore's job is to find out why kids aren't coming to school, and to get them there.  She says they've gone as far as to drive parents to services. 

But Mann says, they need help.

"We're looking at doing something bigger and working with the community because we know the schools can't tackle it alone,"Mann says.

District-wide, more than eleven hundred students are chronically truant.  All the numbers in the report are from the state board of education, from their e-report card and truancy reports.  The Community Foundation is also studying truancy in Decatur and coming up with suggestions to reduce it.

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