Attendance Matters, a Surrey school board initiative targeted at meeting the most basic nutritional needs of nearly 1,000 students attending 23 of the city’s inner city schools, has been supported by The Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Adopt-a-School initiative since 2011.
The program’s current grant application seeking $100,000 — the same amount granted in previous years — will be used to cover the food security needs (specifically breakfast programs) of students in those 23 schools.
The benefits of the program include a substantial drop in absenteeism rates among children from kindergarten to Grade 3, according to statistics collected by the Surrey school district.
The board’s statistics show the highest rates of chronic absenteeism occurred in 2010/11, before Attendance Matters was launched and supported by Adopt-a-School. Chronic absenteeism is defined as a child missing more than 10 days of school in a school year. Studies have shown that chronic absenteeism among children from kindergarten to Grade 3 will make them less likely to graduate than other students.
One example of the program’s success is Hjorth Road elementary, where 42 per cent of students in grades K-3 were chronically absent. This number dropped by more than half, to less than 20 per cent of K-3 students being chronically absent by 2014/15, the most recent statistics available.