PARSONS, Kan. — The pandemic exposed an issue at many schools across the country: chronic absenteeism, including in the Parsons School District. However, district leaders have implemented a system that has helped.

The Parsons School District has created a new “Chronic Absenteeism Task Force,” made up of faculty and staff from each school in the district. They’ve come up with initiatives and incentives for students.

“Most of the research says, you know, try the non-punitive approach, support multi-tiered system of support. And so that’s where we started trying things last spring. And then we saw our numbers start to decrease,” said Jeff Pegues, Parsons Schools Assistant Superintendent.

They’ve also put a focus on creating a welcoming environment and put a system in place to reward good attendance like morning assemblies to recognize students and drawings for weekly attendance.

“We’ve even discussed drawings and incentives for parents, giving out free coffee gift cards in the drop-off if they’ve had perfect attendance. So whatever. Sometimes it’s incentivizing the parents as well. But we’ve seen the biggest increase at those primary levels where we were the lowest,” said Pegues.

According to the Kansas State Department of Education, more than 25 percent of students were chronically absent during the 2021-2022 academic year. In Parsons, the number was 38 percent. So far, the rates this year have improved. Chronic absenteeism district-wide is down 15 percent.

“When we see that data may trend in the opposite direction, we may try new things. But something else we’re doing is, every meeting we’re bringing in research and looking at what everybody else is doing, what is working at the state and national level, and how can we make those things work for our clientele here in Parsons,” said Pegues.