As a result of the first Truancy Summit held two months ago at Thompson Middle School, the district has been looking for ways to decrease the number of chronically absent students and get them back into the classroom.
A difficult task with no easy fix.
At the high school level, of the 627 students at Rogers in 2009-2010, 19 percent were absent 12 – 17 days, jumping drastically to 42 percent of students being absent 18 days or more. That is the third highest rate of chronically absent high school students in the state, behind only Providence and Woonsocket, who both had 45 percent.
At the summit, RHS Principal Patti DiCenso pointed out that when the city stopped running a RIPTA line to Rogers that the absenteeism rate dramatically increased.
She claimed that with no 62 Red line running from the Gateway Center to RHS, students from the North End of town would not walk to school.
Hearing that, Superintendent John Ambrogi worked with Mark Therrian from RIPTA, and got a new shuttle reinstated that students could use to get to RHS.
The 16-passenger van is waiting at the Gateway Center in the morning for students who arrive after the 63 Line from the North End completes its route and bring students to RHS.
A hopeful idea – but no one is using it.
According to Therrian, the first two days of school 4 kids used the van. Since the third day of school – not one student has used the transportation.
Therrian said “It sounded like a great idea at first, but our job isn’t to get kids to school. It was an opportunity for us to help, but no one seems to be taking advantage of it.”
If no one continues to show up, Therrian said the new van would be pulled in a matter of weeks.
Obviously, this new van isn’t working. It’s not a matter of students missing their bus and not being able to get to school - at least at the high school level.
So what now? How do we get high school kids back in to the classroom and walking across the stage to accept their diplomas?
There's no silver bullet that will solve the issue of truancy. It's a long road ahead, and while the school department tried by adding a van - it's going to take much more than that.