Pasadena's Chronically Absent Students Get Visit From School District

By Kate Larsen
|  Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013  |  Updated 12:38 PM PDT
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Volunteers will go door-to-door to check on families whose children have not shown up for class. About 45 volunteers will visit 200 families as part of a

Volunteers will go door-to-door to check on families whose children have not shown up for class. About 45 volunteers will visit 200 families as part of a "student recovery" program to check on no-shows. Kate Larsen reports for Today in LA on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2013.

The Pasadena Unified School District took roll call a step further Wednesday as dozens of volunteers for the first time went to the homes of chronically absent students to get them back in the classroom.

"We have a list of students who have not appeared in school since Aug. 14, Day 1 of school," said Eric Sahakian, PUSD's director of child welfare. "We're making home visits to re-engage, reconnect."

The volunteers knocked on 200 doors in search of PUSD's most truant students. If no one answered the door, they left a letter with information on how to get in touch with the school district for support.

Dropout rates for the district's K-12 have dropped from 15.6 percent four years ago to around 13 percent in recent years - about on par with the state average. But the school district wants to do better, especially since average daily attendance dollars add up to about $11.5 million lost for Pasadena's 13 percent dropout rate.

District officials say truancy is often the result of problems at home, whether it be a lack of confidence or economic hardship.

"My freshman year I would have to take two buses just to get here," said Marilyn Banuelos, a senior at Pasadena High School. "I would always have to get up early, struggle to go to the bus stop on time."

Banuelos is now an AP student, and despite her long commute, has one of the best attendance records at Pasadena High.

"You guys have to have your own motivation to have a better future," Banuelos advised her fellow students.

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