Getting students to 'Show Up'
That's the message Crook County School District administrators are spreading.
"One of our Big Priorities is 'Show Up,' which has to do with increasing enrollment and improving student attendance," said CCSD Superintendent Sara Johnson.
District enrollment was down at the beginning of this school year, and Johnson called the seemingly declining enrollment "super concerning."
"It was getting up to where it'd be a quarter million dollar impact on the budget," she said.
However, things quickly turned around.
In October, the district gained 29 students since school had started in September. Then in November, the district gained another 20 students.
"Our enrollment is up 49 kids," Johnson reported. "We were below budget, and now we've recouped enough that we're right at budget in our enrollment. My hope is that we continue that upward trend."
As of November, the district had 2,993 students, which is 46 more students than a year ago.
"One of the things we know is that Facebook's expansion of their construction projects brought some families in more permanently, and that's a good thing," Johnson said. "Families are back together, they're here and have a good job."
More students means more state income for the local district.
But another piece of the Show Up initiative is not only having students enrolled in school but to go to school.
"We are trying to create a place where kids can stay," Johnson said. "Improving our customer service is really the focus."
In a school district, that "customer service" includes things like after-school clubs, athletics, attendance awards, mentoring, electives, and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support.
"What is it that we can provide in service that would make it so students say, 'I love to come, I feel comfortable being here, somebody cares,' and it feels like somebody is providing something for them?" Johnson said.
After all, school board member Doug Smith pointed out, the state spends $45 a day to transport and educate each student.
"If you say, 'I'm not going to go to school today,' what a waste," Smith said. "And then you multiply that times potentially 90 people at our high school that are chronically absent, that's a lot of tax payer money that's going to waste."
In October, the Oregon Department of Education released report cards that included the attendance rate of the district as a whole and of individual schools.
Regular attenders are those students who were present 90 percent or more of the school days in a given year. Chronically absent students are those who were absent 10 percent or more.
The Crook County School District was ranked first in Central Oregon with 81.9 percent of students regularly attending school. They were closely followed by Sisters School District with 81.3 percent. Redmond School District was the lowest in the region with 73.7 percent regularly attending.
Crook County High School as the second-highest Central Oregon high school, with 79.1 percent regularly attending. Madras High School had the highest rate with 82.2 percent. Half of Redmond Proficiency Academy students attended regularly.
"We're proud to be right up there near the top," said CCSD School Improvement Director Joel Hoff of the CCHS percentage. "We still have such a tremendous amount of work to do before we can really celebrate."
Crook County Middle School had the best middle school attendance record in the area last school year with 84.5 percent. Pilot Butte Middle School was the lowest with 74 percent.
Of the 39 regional elementary schools, Paulina had the best attendance rate with more than 95 percent of the 20 students regularly attending. Barnes Butte Elementary was sixth with 87.5 percent, and Powell Butte Community Charter School was 84.2 percent.
The low point for CCSD, however, was Pioneer Alternative High School with 24.1 percent regularly attending.
"Pioneer, we'd like to see higher, but in all fairness, some of our students leave Crook County High to go to Pioneer because they're struggling so much with attendance," Hoff said.
CCSD Curriculum and Special Programs Director Stacy Smith noted that the district needs to keep working to get more Pioneer students to attend regularly.
He was pleased with the district's ratings but realizes they have room for improvement.
"We have opportunity to grow," Smith said. "I think the emphasis is on building those relationships, making schools places that engage kids, and they want to be there."
He said the attendance piece is his professional goal this school year.
"We have some really good things in place, but one that we don't have tied up yet is how to make what we're doing in our schools an awareness for the entire community and get people on board – a little positive pressure community-wide on improving attendance in our school district," he said. "We want the culture of academic excellence and a desire to be at school."
He pointed out that some grant money may be available to increase community awareness, such as creating T-shirts that read "Show Up – Attendance Matters."
The district is exploring new strategies and incentives to get students to Show Up.
"How do we make a place where this child is thriving and connected and engaged and it's meaningful?" Johnson said. "And when they get up in the morning, they say, 'I have to go to school today. I love to go to school. I can't miss school, and I really want to be at school.'"