For the first time, the Hawaii Department of Education is looking into the numbers of chronically absent students.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as a student that misses 15 or more school days in a in a school year. It's the only way elementary schools performance is judged in the new Strive HI “Readiness” category.
The state standard for average days missed by a student is 9, but students at one school on the Leeward Coast miss a lot more days than that.
Every day, Makaha Elementary waits for its students to show up to class, but there are so many no shows that the school has found itself near the top of the chronic absentee list in Hawaii. Students at Makaha Elementary miss an average of 18 school days each year.
"It's common sense if they're not here, they’re not able to learn,” said Cecile Lamar, vice principal at Makaha Elementary School.
A national study reveals chronic absenteeism to be more prevalent among children from low income households. Lamar says 80 percent of the schools kids are living in poverty.
"Economic impact in our community has been great so there’s a lot of families struggling,” said Lamar.
But poverty is just one of many issues the school faces. Some kids don't want to go to school, others have to stay home to take care of their siblings. Some parents, just don't have the time.
“When parents are working two to three jobs just to make ends meet, sometimes it’s difficult to schedule in things or find ways to get their kids to school, get them ready for school and get them healthy,” said Lamar.
But teachers and staff have been fighting back.
"Education doesn't just happen in school, it continues on when the bell rings and the kids go home, it continues on at home,” said Kanoa Kawai, a sixth grade teacher at Makaha Elementary.
So now some teachers are making house calls on their own time to catch up with students who were absent. Other staff members are known to pick up and drop off kids from their houses when their parents can't. Teachers say communication is critical in solving this problem.
“As the teachers, and the school, and the home can communicate, we can work out any problems,” said Kawai.
Teachers also wanted to make it a point that they are not at school to judge any parents. Instead, their main goal is to do what it takes to give their kids an education.
Some “Recognition” schools, meaning, the highest ranking elementary schools by STRIVE HI, carry as little as 5 average missed days by student per school year.
To find out how your school is doing, you can click on the link below.