New Britain City Journal

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Schools Cutting Down on Absenteeism

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If a student has missed one day of school already this year, they are now considered chronically absent in New Britain.

“We will check this right through to 180 days of school so that we are on top of this,” Joe Vaverchak, District Supervisor of Attendance/Residency. “We put a team together to put interventions into place.”

So far 1,080 students, 10 percent, are on that list. The highest percentage is 48 percent at the alternative center school. New Britain High School is at 18.75 percent. Pulaski Middle School is at 15.52 percent. The elementary schools have about 5-6 percent with Smalley School having the largest absent number at 9.93 percent.

Officials said many may have moved or are attending other schools out of town.

On Monday night the school accepted a resolution to help fight chronic absenteeism.

The resolution stated that the City of New Britain Consolidated School District’s view concerning chronic absenteeism was to, “focus was starting as early as pre-school”. It included, missing 10 percent of school is a proven predictor of academic trouble. Chronic absenteeism predicts lower third grade reading efficiency, failure and eventual drop-outs.

The school formally recognized September as Attendance Awareness Month.

“We are ahead of the game this year especially at the high school. We are on top of it and getting down to the root of the problems,” said Vaverchak. “We have put things in place in a short amount of time. The work we have done on chronic absenteeism the past three years has been tremendous. The State looks at us as a model.”

New Britain set up attendance teams. That helped put legislation in place at the State level for all schools to do that.

“It starts in how you analyze data. We have teams in place already to focus on how to use data to put proper interventions in place,” said Vaverchak. “The culture the district has is now growing. We know it is an important issue and we are prioritizing it.”

Compared to other Cities similar to New Britain, Vaverchak said New Britain is doing well.

“We have very active data. Our percentages show good numbers,” said Vaverchak. “The high school is still hot, but we are improving.”

Every grade level improved in chronic absenteeism last year except eleventh grade.

The school system is looking into whether students at the high school who walk over a mile to school could be a reason for chronic absenteeism. Several parents have requested busses pick up students who walk over a half mile to school. The board recently changed Kindergarten students be picked up who are a half mile from school rather than one mile.

“That has shown good results. Busses have impacted our numbers very positively,” said Vaverchak. “I haven’t done any studies at the high school level. Walking two miles could be tough for some people.”

There are concerns especially about walking in the snow and walking when days are short. The concern about adding more busses, is the costs associated with it.

Sharon Beloin-Saavedra, school board president, said that “We are always looking at costs for transportation. We were able to reduce mileage for elementary walkers because of our ridership without affecting costs. We will look to do the same for the high school.”