Each year, Los Angeles Unified School District officials identify between 15 and 20,000 students as no-shows or potential drop outs. To reach those students, district officials spent Friday making home visits to try to bring them back to school.
In the eight years since district launched what is known as "Student Recovery Day," district officials and school staff have visited more than 10,000 homes. Nearly 5,000 students have re-enrolled in school during that time.
"It's about second, third, fourth, fifth – how ever many chances it needs to take – for students to come back," Superintendent Michelle King said Friday, addressing district officials, volunteers and reporters. "And it's about, not only coming back, but us supporting students while they're here to get them to the graduation stage."
Five of those "recovered" students shared stories with district officials about what led them out of school and what drew them back. One teen explained that her attendance started wavering after her family got evicted; another said she stopped coming when she realized she wouldn't graduate on time.
"I think a lot of students are not successful because it’s so easy to be bad and it’s so hard to do good," said Randy Banks Jr., who said trouble started for him when he was hanging with the wrong crowd and ended up in juvenile detention. This spring, he graduated from Johnston Community Day School and is now enrolled in L.A. Harbor College.
Bringing students back into the classroom is a big priority for the district, with huge financial repercussions. A 1 percent increase in attendance would mean a $40 million increase in funding, according to estimates presented by the district in March.
And student recovery is an issue in other local districts as well. One recent study found that at least 225,000 Southern California public school students miss at least three weeks of class each year, which puts them at great risk for dropping out.
Mayor Eric Garcetti joined King and Zimmer at the home of Jeffrey Galeano, who dropped out of West Adams Preparatory high school to work and support his family. They spent about 20 minutes in Galeano's home and were able to convince him to re-enroll.
"He’s agreed to go to school today to sign up, continue working but we have some night classes that we’re going to connect him with," Garcetti told reporters after exiting the house.
The district has a hotline available for families who want to re-enroll their children: 213-241-3844.