Eight students in Jennifer Colindres’ class are researching, meeting with staff and students, and finding ways to decrease the number of students missing school.
There were 11,000 full or partial-day absences at Bunnell Elementary last year. The eight-member community problem solving A.I.M. (Attendance Increase Massively) team in Jennifer Colindres’ class decided those numbers could, and should, be improved.
“I was shocked when I saw the numbers,” Colindres said. “I told them I don’t think these numbers are right you should look at them again.”
But the numbers were right.
The students have been crunching numbers, using a Google sheets, of attendance rates from 2014 through 2016. They will soon have early 2017 numbers.
So far the students have given presentations in 14 classes.
“We have been teaching kids around the school why attendance is important and why they should come to school,” Ivey Orndorff said.
Their data includes full day, partial day, and early dismal absences.
“Normally kids are on vacation, or they have appointments during school days, or they are sick,” Kevin Wolfe said. “We have told them to try and plan appointments so they won’t miss out, and ask their parents to schedule them when they are not in school, on holidays and weekends.”
Last week team members Rylee Lawson and Ivey recorded messages for an “All Call” to parents. Kevin said the next step is to have the fliers they have designed, copied and sent home.
Katie Telfer said when a student is absent it can affect other students, especially those doing projects together.
Knowing, as children, they don’t have control over when appointments are made, or they are late for other reasons, the team suggests talking to parents and asking if they have a back-up plan, someone else that could drive them if mom and dad are unable.
“I like school, and I want to get a good job in the future,” Anya Subachev said. “I want other kids to get good jobs in the future instead of being homeless or not achieving in school.”
On Friday, Jan. 20 Rylee and Kevin attended a school staff meeting, and the team takes turns updating Principal Marcus Sanfilippo on their progress.
The team has seen some attendance improvement. In the last quarter of school, 105 students had perfect attendance.
“We’ve seen changes,” Kevin said. “At least 10 less absences for the month.”
The team has partnered with Granada Animal Hospital, owned by Kevin’s mom Dr. Shelby Wolfe, for team T-shirts, and with Dragon Financial for incentive prizes.
“After each quarter we are doing movies for the students with perfect attendance,” Ivey said. “Every quarter, whoever gets perfect attendance gets entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire,” Anya said. “At the end of the year we will have a drawing for a bike,” Kevin added.
To involve their fellow students in their project, the team began an essay contest about absenteeism for grades third through sixth, and a coloring contest about what they like about school, for the kindergarten through second grade.
“It’s easy to think, it’s no big deal to let them go home early, but the way it adds up is pretty staggering,” Colindres said.