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Chronic absenteeism an issue at several Las Vegas elementary schools

Posted: 3:37 PM, Nov 16, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-18 01:47:41Z

This story is part of our  Raising The Bar  series. Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News is leading the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have an idea for a Raising The Bar story,  click here to email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com .

Skipping school may be a problem you associate with high school students, but in this installment of Raising the Bar, we found a much younger group isn't showing up.

Principal James Aimetti strides down the hallways of Rex Bell Elementary serve a dual purpose. He is part inspector and part cheerleader.

The 1-star rating the school near Sahara Avenue and Rancho Drive was given by the state means it is among the poorest performing schools in the entire Clark County School District.

And the problems extend far beyond any book.

"We are not just reading, writing, arithmetic anymore," Aimetti said.

People can talk about math and reading scores all they want, but the challenge at Rex Bell and other schools is much more basic than that. Getting students in the door is an issue.

Chronic absenteeism is a problem at Rex Bell and because this is an elementary school, the problems begin at home -- not so much with the students but with the parents.

Absenteeism at elementary schools has caught the attention of new Superintendent Jesus Jara.

"These are adult issues that are really challenging for us and affecting our kids," Jara said.

Here are the numbers. Last school year out of 808 students at Rex Bell about 169 of them -- nearly 21 percent -- were chronically absent. This means those students didn't even show up for school 10 percent of the time.

So what is being done about it?

At Rex Bell, a family court judge now comes once a week to meet with chronically absent kids. The goal is to figure out why they are missing school and what role the parents play.

The reasons vary.

"There may be transportation issues. Maybe they don't have money to fix their cars," Aimetti said.

Whatever the reason for those parents, Aimetti says he goes to their homes, warns them their children are in danger of falling behind, and develops a positive incentive program for the student that is meant to encourage better attendance.

"I have seen a difference in some students," Aimetti said. When asked if the program is working, he added, "It's a little too early to tell."

However, Aimetti says parents typically respond well when he stresses the problems kids will face when they fall behind.

That is why he is hopeful this program is going to have a positive impact.

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.

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