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Truancy Officers Tour Springfield to Help Kids with Low Attendance

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A big issue at Springfield Public Schools is keeping children in school and each day, the district deploys attendance advisors to check on children and families.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A big issue at Springfield Public Schools is keeping children in school and each day, the district deploys attendance advisors to check on children and families.

These advisors work to find out why a child is not in school and what changes need to be made. Springfield Public Schools wants more than 90 percent attendance.

Over the last three years that rate has hovered around 94 percent with an slight uptick in 2012:

2010 - 94.1
2011 - 94.3
2012 - 94.7
2013 - 94.4 


The attendance advisors work with families every day to improve those numbers.

On any given day, attendance advisor Ed Dorris will knock on door after door and talk to parents, grandparents and guardians.

At one home Dorris told a grandfather the district's concern for his granddaughter.

"She's a senior,” says Dorris. “We want her to graduate and she's at 71 percent attendance."

Springfield Public Schools wants at least 90 percent attendance because it affects how the students learn and how the school is rated by the state.

"As you know, it's the parents responsibility to get him there," Dorris told the parents of a 12-year-old.

Dorris is working on behalf of elementary, middle and high school kids and, he says, he spends many days figuring out why children are not in class.

"Going to homes when people do not call their kids in," says Dorris.

Some parents are facing hardships.

"Sometimes our families don't have phones or transportation,” says Dorris.

Other parents are simply not coming through for their students.

Dorris says good attendance now sets children up for the future.

"Yes we are concerned about their education from the third grade to the fourth grade to the fifth grade, but they are going to be adults one day,” says Dorris. “And we sure want them to have those good kinds of things that make them good people. To be employed, to be on time, to have manners, to be respectful, all those things that we teach for our schools and that's very important for the rest of their lives as well."

On this day there is a bright spot for Dorris. He goes to tell a family the changes they've made are working.

"Sophie's attendance has raised from 80.99% to 83% just in about 10 days,” Dorris told the child's mother.

Sophie's brother's attendance also improved. Their mother Kim Dewhirst said the family made some changes to improve their children's attendance.

"Last year we did a lot of moving around and this year we haven't done as much," said Dewhirst.

Dorris leaves this mom with an important reminder.

"We all know that it starts with you guys getting them up, getting them there on time," said Dorris

Dorris says with the help of Caring Communities attendance advisors also offer deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

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