Too many Pinellas County kindergarten students are not coming to class, prompting community advocates and the school district to take action to keep them in school.
Findings from a recent study through the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in partnership with Pinellas County Schools, found that absences of Pinellas County children were high among kindergartners.
Kindergarten is such a pivotal point, the Juvenile Welfare Board has launched Kindergarten Counts, an initiative aimed at promoting the importance of good school attendance starting in early Kindergarten.
Shana Davis, a kindergarten teacher at Belcher Elementary School in Clearwater, sees growth happening in her students every day.
“Four and five-year-olds it’s all about me, me, me, me, me," Davis said. "Kindergarten gives them an avenue where they can learn a lot more structure in their day.”
She believes kindergarten lays the groundwork for strong language, reading and math skills.
"It has to start with the firm foundation because as they grow, it’s just going to get more difficult in the higher grades," Davis said.
But unfortunately, not enough kindergartners in Pinellas County are making it to school each day, prompting community advocates to step in.
The Juvenile Welfare board said absences add up. They say kids can fall behind even if he or she misses just one or two days every few weeks. Being late or tardy can also lead to school attendance problems down the line, they said.
Judith Warren, Chief Operating Officer of the Juvenile Welfare board came to Belcher Elementary to hand out coloring books created by their office stressing the importance of kindergarten attendance, along with pledges for parents to sign.
“Every day counts, every day matters," Warren said.
The pledge, which children are asked to bring home, parents to keep their kids in school unless they are truly sick.
It says: "I understand that good habits, like attending school each day, start early. I pledge to send my child to kindergarten every day because I love my child, want what's best and know that every day counts."
Warren hopes this helps get through to families.
“Really stressing the importance to parents who think, oh, it’s no big deal if my child goes out just one day," Warren said. "It is."
The Juvenile Welfare Board has provided these tips to parents to get kids out the door to school smoothly each morning:
Know the attendance policy for your child's to school and keep a copy handy.
Set a regular bed time and morning routine
Lay out clothes and pack backpacks the night before
Don't let your child stay home unless they are truly sick
Develop a back-up plan for getting your child to school if something comes up. JWB recommends calling on a neighbor, family member or friend to help
Avoid scheduling appointments or extended trips for your child when school in session.