LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County schools need more people in the classroom, and it’s not just teachers.
The school system is short by approximately 100 teachers at the start of the school year and is actively recruiting educators from outside of Florida, including new hires from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.
The school system also wants more students in the classroom. It’s battling an attendance problem.
In 2015-2016, the most recent year data has been available, more than 3,300 students in kindergarten through fifth grade missed 21 days or more.
Ten missed days is considered chronic absenteeism.
This year, five elementary schools are piloting the “Strive for Less Than Five” program, an effort by the Polk Vision committee of educators and community members to raise awareness of the long-term effects that missing school has on educational development.
Starting as early as preschool and kindergarten, chronic absence can leave third graders unable to read proficiently, sixth graders struggling with coursework and high school students off track for graduation.
Chronic absence is especially problematic among students living in poverty who are most likely to have poor attendance over multiple years and least likely to have the resources to make up for the lost time in the classroom.
“Strive for Less Than Five” will monitor daily absences at the five participating schools, encourage friendly competition between the schools to have the lowest number of absentees and ask community organizations to promote the importance of attending school every day.
Polk County schools are also trying to get more parents involved in the education system. Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd appeals to local employers to work with parents who need time off to volunteer at their child’s school, attend meetings and be a part of field trips and other events.
“If you have employees that need some volunteer hours, allow them to come and give some of that time to our schools and our students,” said Byrd.
Superintendent Byrd said low parental involvement is largely due to how spread out Polk County is and a large number of parents not having adequate transportation.
STORIES OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON-
- Shark dragging video being investigated by Manatee County State Attorney’s Office
- Uber driver saves man’s life after ride to Sunshine Skyway Bridge
- 5 dogs killed in Valrico house fire
- Plea deal today for Bradenton mom accused of killing daughter, putting body in freezer
- VIDEO: Clearwater expert explains why ‘Pinky’ the dolphin may be pink
- Man, 53, charged with kicking 6-year-old girl at Chuck e. Cheese’s
- Couple killed in crash 1 day after their wedding
WFLA.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.