After truancy rates hit 79% in Detroit schools last year, a plan to halt it is in place this fall

Public schools in Detroit report chronic absenteeism is not new for the district, but the pandemic made things worse.

Prior to the pandemic, the Detroit Public Schools Community District reduced that figure to 54 percent but last year that percentage climbed to 79 percent.  A study by Wayne State University found similar results showing the rise in truancy.  

"When children learn, children thrive - when children learn they blossom into productive citizens. How can they learn if they are not present," said Pastor Cindy Rudolph, Oak Grove AME Church

The non-profit ‘Helping Kids Go to School and more than 100 Detroit churches have come together for what they say is a "call to action" to reduce absenteeism in DPSCD starting with their own congregations.  

"We have many retired teachers that are still in education currently that if we work together, we can make a difference," said Richard White III, Dexter Ave. Baptist Church.

"Helping kids go to school" focuses on children who are having significant problems showing up in the classroom. It works on dealing with obstacles like lack of transportation, work conflicts parents may have, sickness in the family, or something as simple as not having school clothes.

They are looking for volunteers for their effort and want trained and certified coaches to help families.

"The best way to keep people out of crime on the back end is to get them educated on the front end.I think that is something we should resonate with," said Steve Bland, senior pastor, Liberty Temple Baptist Church.

The district’s superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti spoke with Fox 2 after rolling out a new website that he hopes will improve attendance and grades

"This is more about one point of access, one login to get the latest district announcements, school announcements, but most importantly immediate student level information on how a student is doing in school," Vitti said.

But based on the numbers, that likely won’t be enough. FOX 2 reached out to DPSCD Tuesday, they are welcoming the support of Detroit pastors… and sent a statement.

The superintendent says the rise in kids being absent is mainly due to stringent quarantine health rules for unvaxed kids who may have to sometimes miss up to two weeks of school. January’s surge and a longer school year didn’t help either.

The full statement by Vitti is below:

"The District appreciates the proactive engagement of our pastors to encourage improved student attendance this year. We need everyone to share this message. Chronic absenteeism is not new for our District but the pandemic has worsened student attendance. Prior to the pandemic the District reduced chronic absenteeism to 54%. However, last year that percentage climbed to 79%.

"This was mainly due to the stringent quarantine health rules placed on our schools due to students not being vaccinated. This required unvaccinated students to quarantine and miss school for 14-10 days. This surge in January also led to student absenteeism with a month of online learning and so did the longer school year through late June.

"This year school year there is no close contacting for COVID and we are completing the school year earlier on June 9th, 2023. Our data is clear that students who are not chronically absent are more likely to perform at and above grade level in literacy and math."