‘Back to school’ comes late for many Detroit children

DETROIT — A surprising number of children do not show up for the first day or even the first few weeks of classes in Detroit Public Schools, so the district is now sending staffers door to door in an effort to boost enrollment, according to The Detroit News.

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of children who live in the district do not attend school in September, officials told The News. They cited a number of reasons: Parents who are trying out a charter public school; homeless families who never received information about start dates; confusion over school assignments, lack of transportation, and even an attitude that the first few weeks of school are not that important, The News reported.

To counter those issues, attendance agents are visiting homes in neighborhoods affected by school consolidations, and the district is sending enrollment vans to churches and family reunions, The News reported.

“In my 13 years of teaching, about one-third don't show up every year,” Mark O'Keefe, executive vice president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, told The News. “There were parents who simply don't bring their kids back on the first day of school. It's part of the way things are here.”

Starting school late not only affects children academically, but last year cost the district $28.5 million in state funding due to shifting enrollment counts, spokesman Steve Wasko told The News.


The Detroit News, “Home visits aim to lift DPS enrollment,” Aug. 18, 2011


Michigan Education Digest, “Detroit unions sue over pay cut,” Aug. 8, 2011