School attendance is one of the most important aspects of a child's learning. The bottom line - a child can't learn if they are not in school.
John Henry, Wyoming County's new director of Student Services and Attendance, has made a bold move to raise awareness of the attendance problems in the county and hopes to help students resolve some of the issues that prevent them from going to school.
Henry has kicked off a new "Push for Attendance" campaign, which has gained support from area businesses as well as individuals in the county.
Henry had attendance signs made that read "Attendance Today To Prepare For Tomorrow," and he is distributing them throughout the area.
"I personally have taken these signs to local businesses and asked them to get on board with us to support regular school attendance," Henry said. "We chose the slogan because attendance really does prepare students for tomorrow, not just for college purposes, but regular attendance prepares us for the workforce and for the life skills we need to succeed."
The project has also been beneficial to businesses, in that, Henry posts the pictures of the business owners or workers holding the attendance signs on Facebook.
"Posting the Facebook pictures is not only another outlet to push the attendance campaign, but it also helps advertise the businesses. We just want the business owners to know we are very appreciative of them helping support attendance," Henry said.
The campaign is designed to let students and parents know how important regular school attendance is and to make them aware of how much their child can miss out on if they are not in school and how far behind they can get in a short amount of time by not having regular attendance. Henry hopes the campaign will promote attendance by showing them, "how much we care about them and want to work to do anything we can to get them in school on a regular basis."
Henry said attendance statewide, not just in Wyoming County, has declined, and the number of chronically absent students (students who have missed 10 days or more) has increased. He has other projects planned to improve regular attendance, including using some public service announcements and getting the students involved in ownership of increasing attendance.
"We will be using school videos and pulling in our community involvement to increase attendance," he added.
There will also be school-based incentives as well as county incentives used to encourage students to attend school.
The new director pointed out that there has "been great support" from the Wyoming County prosecutor's office, Department of Health and Human Resources, and the juvenile probation office and that he plans to partner with them to help curb attendance problems.
"We are also going to utilize our CIS (Communities In Schools) facilitators, who will be working with parents and students, to increase attendance and get them connected with the proper resourcesand to just provide another adult that can show a kid they are there to help them, support them, and hold them accountable," Henry said.
Wyoming County is the largest expansion of CIS facilitators in the state of West Virginia.
Henry said he hopes to decrease the number of chronically absent students by 5% this school year.
"We will continue to do whatever it takes in hopes that, ideally, someday every student in Wyoming County will attend class every day," he said.