• St. Louis public school officials take to churches to reduce absences

    St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams addresses the congregation at the Friendly Temple Baptist Church in St. Louis on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, to remind parents that the school year is starting and students need to be in attendance. Photo by J.B. Forbes,jforbes@post-dispatch.com
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    13 hours ago    By Ken Leiser kleiser@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8215

    ST. LOUIS • Public school officials fanned out to churches on Sunday with their own version of education gospel. And it begins with children attending school when classes begin today.

    “I need help,” St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams told the large crowd at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. “I am asking you to please, if you have a child, a grandchild, a cousin, a brother, a godchild, your nephew — any one of those relationships — that you make sure that some phone call is made, some email is made, some Tweet is made ... to remind them that school starts tomorrow.”

    Regardless of whether it is a public or private school — in or out of St. Louis — it is critical to be in class when the school year begins and throughout the academic year, he said. He attended both services there Sunday.

    Adams and more than 20 St. Louis Public Schools representatives visited St. Louis churches as part of a push to improve attendance. Other measures include school district officials making phone calls and home visits.

    Enrollment in St. Louis Public Schools stands at about 27,000, he said. Absenteeism is still a problem with first-day attendance generally running at 81 to 85 percent. Adams would like to see that improve.

    During his appearance, Adams briefly referenced the school-transfer controversies swirling around the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts.

    “That is a solution,” he said of student the transfers. “Is it the best solution for kids and families? I think the answer is no. We just need to work collectively together to find a better solution to what’s happening when school districts fail.”

    Parents and school children in attendance agreed that the message is an important one to hear.

    Anita Qualls of Florissant, a school counselor, said three of her four children begin school this week at Halls Ferry Elementary School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

    “A lot of parents do not understand the importance of the first day of school,” she said. “They have to be there on the first day so that they can see for themselves what the routine is. Because routines start the first day of school.”

    DeMonte Benjamin, 17, said he begins school on Tuesday at Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School, where he is a senior. He said absenteeism is not a major issue at his school.

    “Everybody knows everybody,” he said. “It’s a good environment.”


    Ken Leiser is the transportation writer at the Post-Dispatch. Read his Along for the Ride column online and every Sunday in the newspaper. The story can be accessed here.
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