The Dallas ISD launches a major new effort Monday to get students back in class and re-engaged with school.
"We want you back is really what it comes to and in some scenarios, it's a simple thing. You just need to hear someone say that to you," said Orlando Riddick, the district's acting chief of School Leadership.
Operation Comeback will use phone calls, texts and home visits to find out how the district can provide the resources students need to stay in school.
"And it's not that this hasn't been ongoing from the start of school, but this is a large effort throughout the district for us to make that connection happen and get footprints into the community and knocking on doors to say, what can we do to help?" Riddick said.
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The Dallas ISD has seen a dramatic increase in absences as parents and students cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Riddick says the goal of the monthlong effort is to let students and families know that hope for success in the classroom is not lost.
"I think there are times that as it perpetuates and goes on and on, as much as you want to connect, you develop this long gap between the connection. And so as much as you want to make that connection, it seems that maybe it's gotten harder to press that button and dial back. So, this is our outreach to say, it's not too late. Let's build this connection. Let's make this happen. We can do it together. The prize is allowing your child to reengage and connect back into their learning in the best way possible," Riddick said.
A news release from the district says once contact is made, central staff teams will talk with families to identify obstacles to school attendance, including asking questions: Do you have an internet connection? Do you need a hotspot? Do you have technology (digital devices)? Does your student know how to log in? How can we support your student’s attendance, either in person or virtually?
Visiting staff will leave families with a list of useful resources, including information about how to get meals, a hotspot or uniforms, how to track their child’s attendance and grades, answers to transportation questions, and how to reach the district online through the Let’s Talk portal.
“We realize that some of the student absenteeism is related to the pandemic, which has pushed many families into crisis. Some students are working to help support their families, and others face serious obstacles that make regular school attendance a challenge,” Riddick said in the news release.
District staff note that the state has allowed districts to count students as present if they submit their work online by 11:59 p.m. each day. For working students, the Evening Academy in Districtwide Student Initiatives may be a pathway to continue their education.
On weekdays, staff teams will make contact-free home visits during daylight hours. Evening teams will be out in the field on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and make phone calls from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Teams will also visit homes every Saturday in February.
Because safety during the pandemic is critical, staff will not enter homes but will carry cards and door knockers containing a QR code that, when scanned, will link users to a request for information or a resource sheet that will include contacts to reach counseling and mental health services and info for students and parents who need help navigating a pathway to get students back on track and attending school.
"Please let families know we're there for them and we know families are going through a number of trials and tribulations right now and a lot of unknowns, but this is a known: The more you plug into your school, the more you plug into your learning, the opportunity for hope really starts to fly. And the belief that we can make it happen is going to come together," Riddick told NBC 5.