MERCED — Since the new school year began in August, Merced city schools have averaged 97 percent attendance, and administrators are hoping this momentum continues for the next six months.
Greg Blount, director of information technology and support services for the Merced City School District, said August attendance figures showed a high of 98 percent before the data tapered off slightly.
Blount is encouraged by figures showing the number of chronically absent students has dropped from nearly 800 last year to 672 this year. The average student misses about six days of school a year.
Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said maintaining high attendance is a top priority of the Board of Education and 97 percent attendance is a board goal. Blount makes regular reports about attendance to board members.
"If they are not in their seats, they can't be learning," Duran said. "You can't teach them if they're not in school. It's a hard number, but it's being done."
Duran said principals are making home visits to chronically absent students and their parents. The principals have reported success stories when students' attendance patterns markedly improved.
The 17-school district has about 10,600 students, Blount said.
Attendance always is the highest in August when the school year begins and then drops off a little, he said. The district is working to ensure a better attendance average for the whole year than last year, maintaining the momentum from this fall, Blount said.
Principals check attendance figures on a daily and weekly basis, making sure to follow up on chronic absences.
They are monitoring higher absence figures for seventh-graders at Hoover Middle School along with kindergartners at Burbank, Givens and Wright schools, Blount said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.