'Challenge Five' shows Rochester's resolve to tackle truancy issue

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Rochester schools may have their problems with student truancy like schools nationwide, but one thing's for sure: The schools and Rochester are fighting back.

Last week a business-schools partnership was announced that will reward stellar student attendance with perks like chances to win hundreds of prizes from free food at McDonald's provided by franchiser The Napoli Group to COAST bus rides to a Chromebook.

In all, some 40 businesses have partnered with the schools and the Believe to Become Foundation to do their part to keep kids in school with a "Challenge 5" campaign, which focuses on having less than five absences in a school year.

One of the larger contributors to the effort is Frisbie Memorial Hospital, which is sponsoring a touch-a-truck event in June, where students who have successfully met the Challenge 5 criteria will have a chance to win a variety of prizes, including a ride home from school in a truck of their choosing.

"We are happy to support the Rochester schools with their innovative initiative to improve student attendance," Frisbie Memorial Hospital President and CEO John Marzinzik said. "It is so important to a child's educational development to have a consistent presence in the classroom throughout the school year, and we are thrilled to be a part of helping that happen."

Chronic absenteeism is a deal-breaking detriment when it comes to getting a quality education. If students aren't in school, they can't learn And the more they get behind, the more likely the chance they'll end up dropping out.

In a conversation with a juvenile prosecutor last week The Rochester Voice reported that chronic absenteeism is as dramatic in Rochester as probably any other school system.

In fact many students that Rochester Police Lt. Anne Gould deals with miss some 45-60 school days a year, others as many as 90. With only 180 days in an academic year, it's plain to see how quickly a student's academics can take a tailspin if they don't attend classes.

It's Gould's job to prosecute parents who fail to take responsibility to help intervene when their children rack up excessive absences, so she sees the problems firsthand.

Gould stressed chronic absenteeism affects all socio-economic demographics and, unbelievably, reaches from high school right on down to the grammar school level.

Rochester Schools Superintendent Michael Hopkins reported last week that while the number of students with 10-plus absences declined slightly during the last academic year, the amount of students who missed five or more days increased in 2016-17, from 67 percent the prior year, to 73 percent.

We at The Rochester Voice applaud the work the schools and business community are doing to try to help local students succeed.

That's why The Rochester Voice contributed a free ad on its Home Page to make readers aware of the problem and the program trying to address it.

Assistant Superintendent Kyle Repucci said last week everything that can be done to make parents aware of the issue helps.

"Maybe it will start a conversation at the dinner table," he said.

We hope parents and the community continue to get behind the effort. It's our future that we're talking about.

- HT

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