Battling student absenteeism with grandmas, vans and a lot of love

Roughly 34% of all students within the Pittsburgh Public Colleges are thought of chronically absent, that means they missed at the very least 10% of college days. Analysis reveals that this can cause serious problems, affecting whether or not a scholar is more likely to learn by third grade or graduate from highschool.

With greater than half of scholars incessantly absent, Pittsburgh Arlington has one of many highest rates of chronic absence within the district. Due to that, the nanas program tries to intervene early on.

Along with the nice and cozy calls, households in this system obtain free van rides to and from Pittsburgh Arlington every day. A lot of them lack the transportation or assets to get their kids there in any other case.

The college district doesn’t provide busing to students who dwell lower than a mile and a half from the college constructing, as an alternative asking them to stroll or discover one other solution to faculty.

In keeping with the district, greater than 60% of Pittsburgh Arlington’s roughly 353 college students fall inside that vary. Vervina Nelson’s son, a kindergartener there, is amongst them.

“And he’s solely 5 years outdated. So it’s just like the rain, the snow, when it’s chilly, it’s an excessive amount of — and it’s a pleasant stroll,” Nelson says. “I imply, he’s going up hills, prefer it’s a stroll.”

However driving him hasn’t essentially been an possibility both. Nelson works at a hospital as a care assistant and sometimes must be there lengthy earlier than the college day begins.

As a result of Pittsburgh Arlington doesn’t have before-school care for teenagers with mother and father who need to be at work, Nelson has to depend on her oldest daughter.

“If she doesn’t need to be at work, I’d have her take him, or I’d attempt to name my sister and have her take him,” Nelson explains. “Or he missed a variety of days and needed to keep house with my mother.”

She even known as the college board to see whether or not it may prepare transportation, however got here up empty. District officers stated that whereas faculties are partnering with group teams to fill within the gaps, they will’t attain everybody.

Nelson says her son ended up lacking a lot of the primary two months of college: “There have been occasions the place, the times that he was lacking, he was begging to go to highschool.”

Then, a number of weeks into the college yr, Pittsburgh Arlington related Nelson with the nanas program. She now will get her son prepared for college earlier than she leaves for work, and a member of the family makes positive he will get on the college van.

Her designated nana, Gwen, calls every morning too. Nelson stated the dialog at all times ends with “I really like you.”

“She’s a pleasure,” Nelson stated. “We’ll inform one another, ‘Oh, I’m going to hope for you right now. Will you pray for me?’ She’s a sweetheart.”

The nanas program was born from a partnership between Pittsburgh Arlington and the Brashear Affiliation, a neighborhood nonprofit.

The affiliation additionally hosts a meals financial institution, after-school youth programming, employment companies and utility and rental help, all of which households within the nanas program have entry to.

With two, nine-seat vans that every run two routes, the nanas program can carry 36 youngsters to and from Arlington every day. Crystal Caldwell, the college’s principal, says roughly 20 college students stay on this system’s waitlist.

“I want we may have extra partnerships like that, that we may have vans giving the youngsters door-to-door [transportation],” Caldwell stated. “Our waitlist is so lengthy as a result of households are like, ‘Hey, I’d actually love this.’”

Within the meantime, the college is working with different group companions to provide you with further options. The college pays its employees to stroll college students many of the manner house, and a close-by church is anticipated to launch a before-school care program this spring.

Caldwell stated that she’s additionally working to make the college a spot that college students need to attend. Pittsburgh Arlington has partnered with native arts organizations to offer particular programming college students can stay up for, and the college social employee meets with every class to present the scholars pep talks on coming to highschool.

“We’re doing all the pieces we are able to to get kids to really feel like that is the best place to be,” Caldwell stated. “We’re simply nonetheless up in opposition to that barrier typically with what occurs in household conditions that’s out of their management.”

That’s why Tiffini Gorman, director of strategic partnerships on the nonprofit A+ Colleges, is working with Pittsburgh Public Colleges districtwide to deal with the attendance drawback from a number of angles.

“For those who name 50 households, there is perhaps 50 various things that occurred. It may very well be issues which might be taking place at house. It may very well be the kid has psychological well being points or anxiousness,” Gorman stated. “It may very well be clothes. It may very well be issues taking place within the neighborhood.”

A+ Colleges helped advocate for the town to put in higher sidewalks on the best way to Pittsburgh Arlington and labored with the Brashear Affiliation to get funding for the nanas program.

Gorman stated that, too usually, households are blamed for not getting their youngsters to highschool, however persistent absenteeism is a matter for the complete group to tackle.

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