Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools has been awarded a $382,300 grant from the state to identify and locate students who haven't been showing up to class. 

In the beginning weeks of the last school year, there were 531 students that could not be located or accounted for in the district. When students are unable to be found within the first 20 days, they're considered a dropout and reported to the state. 

Dr. Fredricca Stokes, the district assistant superintendent of student support, said there were more than 1,000 students missing from school before staff went looking for them.

“When they don't show up on the first day of school, our school social workers, our school counselors, our graduation coaches, administrators, everyone, it's an all hands on deck approach, where they're looking to locate students and find out why didn't they come to school on the first day and the second day and the third day,” she said during the Aug. 9 WS/FCS Board of Education meeting.

By conducting home visits and searches on social media, the team was able to locate some students, but not all. That's where the grant comes in. 

At the meeting, members approved using the funds to contract with Teach Tech U, an education technology consulting company. 

Stokes said the company was chosen out of five proposals submitted through the Request For Proposals process. She said Teach Tech U was selected due to the scope of work it offered, and said the company would serve as an “extra set of hands.” 

“They're able to do canvassing, they're able to work outside of our normal regular hours that we typically work. … They can look for families on Saturdays and Sundays and in the evenings when most of the time our staff are working,” she said. 

Locating the students is just the first phase. From there, Teach Tech U will establish communication with students and parents and assign relationship managers and counselors. The company will also work to retain students with graduation coaches for high schoolers, and success coaches for younger students. 

Stokes said that approximately 36% of WS/FCS students – more than 15,000 – enrolled in school last year were chronically absent, meaning they missed 18 days or more of school.

“So as we see them start to miss school, our hope is that our partners will help us locate them and get them back on track,” she said. 

With the company taking care of the location and retention services, Stokes said the student support staff will be able to focus their energy on providing social, emotional and mental health support for students.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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