POSTED: Friday, August 27, 2010 - 1:35pm
UPDATED: Friday, August 27, 2010 - 5:32pm
EL PASO- Students went back to school this week in the EPISD. Or at least most of them did. On average, about 1,200 kids are absent in the district each day.
According to District Attorney Jaime Esparza, a third of those are playing hooky. His office prosecutes those who repeatedly don't show up.
Truancy is a crime. But Esparza says the courtroom should be a last resort for those cutting class.
Mark Mendoza tries to make sure it doesn't get that far. He's the Director of Pupil Services for EPISD and in charge of keeping classrooms full.
"When we find that a student is having trouble coming to school, we could treat that through the court system as a legal issue or we could look at the root issue. Why is it that the student is not coming to school?" says Mendoza.
Enter the Alpha Intitative, EPISD's anti-truancy program. It approaches each truant individually, because according to Mendoza, every case is different.
"We actually go out to the houses and we find out what's going on, how we can help, and what are some of things we can do to bring that student back into school," Mendoza says.
The numbers say the Alpha Initiative is working. Attendance rates have jumped each year since the program started in 2008.
Mendoza says coming to school translates into success. He wants to get kids into class and keep them there. He wants to see a checkmark next to each name on the roll call list.