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San Diego Unified Works To Boost Attendance

Reported by Nicholas Mcvicker

San Diego schools start class a week earlier this year, and students and education officials are encouraging kids to begin the year on a positive note.

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San Diego schools start class a week earlier this year and students and education officials are encouraging kids to begin the year on a positive note. San Diego Unified and United Way of San Diego representatives joined students Thursday at an event in City Heights to reduce absenteeism, which is costly to both pupils and the district.

At the gathering ahead of the Monday start date, soon-to-be seventh grader Elsa Cespedes explained why attendance is important for a student's scholastic success.

"Did you know that when you miss school just one day, it takes one and a half days to make up for it?" Cespedes asked fellow students at the event.

RELATED: City Heights Program Works To Get Kids To School On Time

Chronic absenteeism can lead to poor reading skills, increasing a student's chances of dropping out in high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Absences also cause schools to lose out on state funding because the California Department of Education reimburses districts for days students attend class.

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district's drive to boost attendance, called the "Attend. Connect. Succeed," campaign, is to raise awareness about the negative consequences of skipping class.

"This initiative is about sending a message to the kids: 'Come to school every day. If you miss school, you miss a lot,'" Marten said.

She said the district hopes to increase attendance at all schools, which has lingered around 95 percent for the last few years, but is looking at the reasons why kids miss school through a United Way program in City Heights. Local university students studying social work, psychology and other disciplines work at seven schools in the area to identify kids who are chronically absent or late and connect them with services to remedy the problem.

United Way CEO Laurie Coskey pointed to the case of a student last year who was frequently tardy because he had to take his little sister to a different school each morning.

"What we helped do is enroll the younger sibling into a program before school at the school where she was at, so her older brother could drop her off at the school and then get to school himself on time every single day, and he did," Coskey said.

Coskey said last year, the agency aimed to improve attendance rates of 250 students in City Heights. This year, United Way is expanding that to 1,000 kids.

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