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School districts work hard to keep number of absentees low

The Mississippi Department of Education recently announced its “Strive for Less Than Five” campaign to encourage students not to miss more than five days of school during the year.

School districts across Pearl River County have various strategies they employ to keep absentees down.

Poplarville Superintendent Carl Merritt said every district across the state suffers from some sort of attendance issue. He said the Poplarville School District’s employees are very proactive when it comes to absentees by regularly monitoring attendance and checking in on students if something seems off. District staff regularly call parents and will even visit homes if needed.

“If a child’s not at school they can’t learn. You have to be there today to prepare for tomorrow,” Merritt said.

Merritt said the attendance rate in the Poplarville District last school year was approximately 95 percent.

Picayune Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said each school in the Picayune School District offers incentives for students who have good attendance. While they vary from school to school, he said these incentives are tailored to the school’s students.

Harrell said although the District suffered attendance problems due to a wide-scale stomach virus, the District still managed to register a 94 percent attendance rate. Harrell said that the District’s goal is for attendance to be at 95 percent or higher.

Harrell said he hopes parents understand the necessity of children attending school every day. If a child doesn’t attend class regularly, then they miss out on important coursework, which could set them behind. If a student has to repeat a grade, they will also have to miss out on important things such as moving on with their friends, he said.

Pearl River County Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said the PRC School District has several strategies to keep the numbers of student absentees down. He said each school has an attendance committee that works closely with parents. If it seems like a child is missing an unusually high number of days, that committee will work with parents to create an attendance plan.

Lumpkin said the District also offers incentives and competitions to encourage student attendance. He said each school offers personalized incentives to students to encourage high attendance. There are also competitions for recognition on a grade and school level, he said.