School absences have risen dramatically as parents and students cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, and Dallas ISD is launching an all-out effort to help students get back in school and engaged.
Beginning Monday, February 1, and continuing through February 27, district teams will be reaching out to students and parents by phone, text and email as a part of “Operation Comeback Student Re-Engagement,” an effort to help students get back on track to continue their education.
Starting Wednesday, February 3, families not reached remotely will receive contact-free home visits by staff members seeking to find out how the district can provide the resources students need to stay in school.
“The idea is to connect with families so we know what obstacles they face and what we can do to help,” said Orlando Riddick, acting chief of School Leadership.
Once they make contact, central staff teams will talk with families to identify obstacles to school attendance, including asking questions: Do you have an internet connection? Do you need a hotspot? Do you have technology (digital devices)? Does your student know how to log in? How can we support your student’s attendance, either in person or virtually?
Visiting staff will leave families with a list of useful resources, including information about how to get meals, a hotspot or uniforms, how to track their child’s attendance and grades, answers to transportation questions, and how to reach the district online through the Let’s Talk portal.
“We realize that some of the student absenteeism is related to the pandemic, which has pushed many families into crisis. Some students are working to help support their families, and others face serious obstacles that make regular school attendance a challenge,” Riddick said. District staff note that the state has allowed districts to count students as present if they submit their work online by 11:59 p.m. each day. For working students, the Evening Academy in Districtwide Student Initiatives may be a pathway to continue their education.
On weekdays, staff teams will make contact-free home visits during daylight hours. Evening teams will be out in the field on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and make phone calls from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Teams will also visit homes every Saturday in February.
Because safety during the pandemic is critical, staff will not enter homes, but will carry cards and door knockers containing a QR code that, when scanned, will link users to a request for information or a resource sheet that will include contacts to reach counseling and mental health services and info for students and parents who need help navigating a pathway to get students back on track and attending school.
“The district and community care about students. We’re calling on everyone to pull together to emphasize the importance of regular school attendance and to join us to assist families so students can focus on their education,” Riddick said.