What does the health of a community depend on? A lot of things, obviously, but one thing in particular is how educated its kids are.
Kids dropping out of school and living without a high school diploma don’t create a healthy society. A group in Spokane is aiming to catch at-risk kids before they drop out.
Priority Spokane is an affiliate of Greater Spokane Incorporated and works to create a vibrant community through its work in a number of areas, including education. Recently, Priority Spokane received a $200,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The money will be used to set up a program for middle school students in Spokane Public Schools to catch at-risk kids who have a pattern of truancy.
The program will notify a student and his or her parent(s) after the student accrues four unexcused absences in a school year. The student and his or her parent(s) will then go before a Community Attendance Support Team (CAST) to find ways to solve whatever problem is keeping the student from going to school.
Spokane County has a video highlighting the efforts the West Valley School District has taken to address truancy issues. The CAST in Spokane Public Schools will be similar.
Think of your own education. It helped you get a job and bring in an income. Education is linked to income, which is linked to health. Adults in Spokane County who didn’t graduate from high school are two and a half times more likely to have heart disease, for example.
Priority Spokane is working with a number of local partners, including the Spokane Juvenile Court, Empire Health Foundation, The Spokane Regional Health District, Spokane Public Schools, Greater Spokane Incorporated, Washington State University and others to create the Support Team.
The Support Team isn’t to act as a jury or judge – it is to be problem solvers with the best interests of the student in mind. The CAST will find out from the student and parent(s) what is causing their attendance issues. Once that is known, the CAST can then work with the student to help solve those problems. There is no formula. Just problem solving.
Keeping our kids in schools makes for a healthier community. Priority Spokane and its partners are doing their part to look out for the future of our community and – more importantly – the future of our kids.