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Buffalo schools focusing on student absenteeism

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Buffalo schools are putting together a plan to get students to show up more often. In some cases,  students are absent for weeks of the year.

Everyone agrees there is a serious absentee problem all the way down to kindergarten. The difficulty is that it's not clear how bad the problem is because there isn't a lot of faith in the system for taking attendance, despite its claimed speedy and high-tech nature.

The district is looking at everything from computer readable ID cards to fingerprint readers to show someone is in the building. Board Member Larry Quinn says the absentee rate is amazing, at schools like MST.
"Fifty percent of the students are missing 38 days of school. We're not educating those kids," Quinn said.

"It has to rise to a much higher level of concern than you are giving to it. I commend you guys, but I think that we are a little naive that this alone is going to solve this problem."

One key plan is to ask the students why they don't show and that involves the system's thin rank of attendance teachers, an area where  Superintendent Kriner Cash says it's going to cost to hire more and more are needed.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.