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LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho visits homes of chronically absent students

Erick Trevino | October 24, 2023

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Carvalho visited Daisy Morales’s home whose four children had been chronically absent from their LAUSD schools. (Erick Trevino)

Los Angeles Unified school superintendent Alberto Carvalho and a team of officials visited the homes of chronically absent students last month for the district’s fifth iAttend Student Outreach Day, an initiative to promote daily attendance.

The program was introduced after LAUSD’s chronic absenteeism rate skyrocketed to 40% for the 2021-22 school year after students returned to in-person classes following remote instruction during the pandemic, according to the California Department of Education. In the 2022-23 school year, the district has been able to decrease that number to 30%, Carvalho said.

“We are here to give resources and make parents aware of all of the benefits of ensuring their [children] are at school everyday,” said Andre Spicer, LAUSD regional superintendent, who oversees 200 schools.

Carvalho visited Daisy Morales, mother of four attending LAUSD schools who have been attending classes sporadically.

135th Elementary recently relaunched their iAttend program to encourage daily attendance (Erick Trevino)

Last year, Morales’s children averaged 64 absences.

After working with district officials, that number has been brought down to only two to three absences. Morales said the biggest challenge to getting her kids to school had been transportation issues.

“They don’t like to catch the bus in the morning because of their anxiety,” said Morales, adding she struggled to get her kids to school once they missed the bus.

But after the district arranged for the bus to pick up her kids as close to their home as possible in what the district calls “concierge transportation,” they began attending school more regularly.

Carvalho also met with families who hadn’t enrolled their children in the school system, adding many of them didn’t even know they were legally required to sign them up for classes.

Morales greets press outside her home for the annual iAttend Outreach Day (Erick Trevino)

For the current school year, LAUSD increased enrollment with 20,000 new students, most of whom were 4-year-olds, an increase driven largely by the district’s new pre-K program.

“After a decade of 6% to 7% of declining enrollment, we have stabilized to 1.9%,” said Carvalho.

Carvalho promises to get Morales the resources her family needs in order their attendance improves (Erick Trevino)

Sherree Lewis-DeVaugh, principal of 135 Street Elementary, said the school had begun hosting interventions with families who struggle to get their kids in school; bringing chronic absences down from 36% to just 10%.

“If a student is not in school, how can they learn?” said Lewis-DeVaugh. “We need to make sure the students are educated, and to make sure that we provide support to our parents as well.”

Morales talks about how her struggle with transportation has made it hard for her kids to attend school regularly. (Erick Trevino)

The school has begun hosting interventions directly with family members who struggle to get their kids in school; bringing chronic absences down from 36% to just 10%.

Erick is a journalist from South Texas; and currently a producer for Annenberg Radio News and contributor for Annenberg Media’s Latin desk, Dímelo, as well as LA School Report. Erick is currently studying at USC for his Master’s in Specialized Journalism.

This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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