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Fremont Public Schools sees success reducing absences after renewed efforts from truancy task force

Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 16:00:13-05

FREMONT, Neb (KMTV) — Johnson Crossing Academic Center principal Brent Harrill works everyday to help his students find academic success.

But looking at the data from last year he saw that many of his students were struggling to show up to class.

“Last year when we looked at our data through our class and state data, we realized we needed to get more kids in school,” said Harrill

The data showed that JCAC had a chronic absentee rate of 23%, meaning 23 percent of their students missed at least 10% of their class days in a year.

That number compares favorably to nearby districts like Omaha Public Schools, who had an absentee rate of 39.7%, but it still a long ways away from where the district wants to be.

“We know life happens, you get sick, family things come up. Once we start hitting those high numbers where students are missing 10, 15, 20 days throughout the school year then we need to step in and help” said Harrill.

In the past year FPS has teamed up with the Dodge County Attorney’s office for a Truancy Task Force to address chronic absenteeism.

The task force has offered a multi-faceted approach.

The schools meet with students and families to identify why students are missing class and find ways they can work with families to get those kids back to class.

The attorney’s office follows up on problem cases where counseling with the families hasn’t been successful. In the past year the attorney’s office has issued 5 citations for suspicion of compulsory education violations, which come with a potential fine of up to $500 and up to 3 months in jail.

“Families care about their kids, we care about our kids so working together as a group and a team has been the most effective way to solve these issues,” said Scott Jensen Executive Director of Secondary Operations for FPS.

The aggressive strategy has been paying off.

Harrill reports that this year, JCAC’ absentee rate is down from 23 to 20%.

“Our goal is to keep dropping that down. If we can get that number down to where we are at 15 to 12 percent or less I think that’s a really good goal and target for us,” said Harrill.