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Check & Connect program helps keep kids in school

Check & Connect program helps keep kids in school

A Pando Check & Connect lunch group at Franklin ElementaryThanks to COVID-relief funds, the Pando Initiative has implemented a Check & Connect program at four WPS elementary schools to help keep kids engaged in school: Franklin, Harry Street, Lawrence and Stanley elementary schools.

Check & Connect is an intervention for students who show warning signs of disengagement with school and who are at risk of dropping out. It pairs a student with a caring, trained mentor who encourages the student to attend and engage in school.

“The program is focused on preventing chronic absenteeism,” said Karen Blucher, senior director of programs and operations at the Pando Initiative. “We focus on the issues that prevent students from attending schools whether they need an alarm clock, they’re tardy or they have behaviors that get them sent out of the classroom.”

Students who miss more than 11 days per school year are considered chronically absent. This year the rate of chronically absent students in the district is 40% — almost double the year-end rate from 2019.

At all four schools, Pando staff does home visits and checks in with families to address tardy or absent students. Schools also have lunch groups where students have a fun activity to look forward to as a way of keeping them engaged at school.

“We know that if students have an additional adult that’s looking for them at school and want’s them to do well, it makes a big difference,” said Kenya McConico, program director for the Pando Initiative.

At the end of the fall semester, 73 percent of program participants were no longer considered chronically absent. Check & Connect is on target to make its goal this semester as well.

Alexandra Urbina, a WPS data analyst who works with the program, has seen first-hand how the program has helped WPS students.

“At Stanley Elementary, we have Pando staff and students coming in an hour before school starts once a week for tutoring,” said Urbina. “The staff has gone above and beyond to connect with students at all four schools.”

Students can be referred to the program by the principal, school staff or parents.