Snapping out of summer and getting ready to head back to class can be a tough time for families. Northeast Ohio's largest school district is trying to ease the sting and ensure every child has access to an education.
With a new school year now underway, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District is focused on chipping away at chronic absenteeism by breaking down the barriers that keep children from getting to class.
"Our last state report card indicated that our absenteeism population was at 30.2 percent," said Lorri Hobson, Director of Attendance for CMSD.
According to Hobson, 8,200 students missed 18 or more days of school last year.
Just a few years ago, she said the numbers were much higher and started taking a toll on the children missing class.
"They score 12 points lower on standard reading, 15 points lower on math and they are 34 percent more likely to not graduate on time," Hobson said.
CMSD's "Get to School, You Can Make It" campaign is helping to turn the tide.
The proof is in the test scores.
"Not where we want to be at, but we have been able to shift the data in a positive direction because students are in school more now," said Lee Buddy JR., Wade Park School Principal.
Absenteeism rates in the district are now down by 14 percent.
CMSD is partnering with the Cleveland Browns Foundation to provide free uniforms, clothing and shoes, all the things that can keep a child at home.
"We're seeing great results. We're seeing an increase in attendance of up to 25 percent, which is outstanding," said Renee Harvey with the Cleveland Browns Foundation.
By the end of this school year, 6,000 clothing packages will have been handed out.
Members of the Browns organization have donated bikes to help children get to school and have also built rocking chairs for classrooms to encourage little learners to crack open a book.
"So, it's about creating an atmosphere where families want to be, where they feel they are not judged, that they're accepted," Hobson said.
Hobson said another area they're focusing on is illness.
"It does have an impact on attendance, especially in our K through eight communities," Hobson said.
One school promoted hand washing and lessons on how germs like the flu spread. It saw higher attendance rates during the hygiene program.
"We know that these things are working," Hobson said.
Next up for the Browns Foundation is tackling transportation issues.
"We do think there's some things we can have some discussions about in terms of student visibility and determining how many students are riding specific buses and making sure they make it into the building from a safety standpoint," Harvey said.