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A new challenge to increase attendance at Rochester City Schools

More than a dozen Rochester schools have started a winter attendance challenge designed to combat chronic absenteeism. 

It's called "Cold Can't Stop Us" and it's an effort to improve attendance numbers which traditionally drop off during the winter months.

The effort involves Causewave Community Partners, a local non-profit organization, and  its president Todd Butler says 14 schools with some of the higher absenteeism rates are part of the challenge which includes having fun and educational activities to encourage kids to go to school, everything from karate demonstrations, to a black history expo to a Valentine's day party.

Causewave has been one of the local organizations that has been deeply involved in trying to improve attendance rates at city schools over the last few years, and Butler says they have made some headway.

“We’ve absolutely made progress since we got started in this; just in the first year that we did it we were able to reduce the chronic absence rate by 17  and a half percent over what it was the previous years."

Butler says some of the schools with the highest rates of chronic absenteeism have seen attendance rates that were as low as 50 percent, but he says there have been improvements in the last couple of years. The goal of the current campaign is a 97 percent attendance level.

The winter challenge has a special focus on grades Pre-K to three. Butler says those foundational years are critical in getting children in the habit of good attendance in their later school years.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.