New Haven schools addressing chronic absenteeism

NEW HAVEN - New Haven Public Schools are back in session beginning Thursday, but Wednesday, school officials kicked off what will be an ongoing initiative to erase chronic absenteeism.

School dropout prevention crews fanned out across New Haven Wednesday and among the target families were those with children going into ninth grade, who have been chronically absent.

“Research suggests that if students missed 10 days of school, in ninth grade, they are more inclined not to be successful in life or will not graduate from high school,” said Dr. Carol D. Birks, Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools.

Two of the dropout prevention specialists FOX61 spoke with have been going door-to-door for a couple of decades and feel the most reward “anytime we have students come back after they’ve completed college and say how helpful the material or information we provided them for that period of time they were in school,” said Hope Howard, a NHPS Dropout Prevention Specialist.

“I try to not come off strong on them, make them feel comfortable and show them that I’m there for their child,” said Melvin Crespo, a NHPS Dropout Prevention Specialist.

One of the biggest reasons for the chronic absenteeism in New Haven, according to the canvassers: medical.

One dropout prevention specialist says she’s particularly proud of her work last year, with an eighth grader, who was tardy 35 times and had already accumulated seven absences by December.

“He had D’s and F’s before then had no more tardies and no more absences at the end of the school year,” said Dania Torres, another NHPS Dropout Prevention Specialist.

She added that this young man turned his grades into high honors by the end of last school year.

The school system said they will continue canvassing throughout the school year.