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Too many students are missing too many school days, superintendent says

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – More than 3,000 of the 23,000 plus Richmond public school students missed at least 18 days of school last year. Those students are deemed “chronically absent.”

Interim Richmond School Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Lewis admits chronic absenteeism is a problem in the city. He said he hopes Richmond’s “Every Day Counts” campaign will raise awareness on the issue and lead to more students in school.

Dr. Lewis said it will take parents, students, teachers, principals and others in the community to turn around the problem.

“Even if you don’t have children everyone needs to be vested in making sure children come to school and children are educated,”  Lewis said.

Anthony Mingo, Sr., coordinator of the Richmond Family and Fatherhood Initiative, said his group is ready to help. He explained the majority of homes in the city school district are headed up by a single parent. He said there may be help out there when you pull in fathers who could potentially influence their kids to attend class.

In addition to neighborhood canvassing, Richmond school leaders plan to host attendance rallies, awards ceremonies and offer incentives to students, parents and schools that improve attendance.

Lewis said he hopes the campaign will triple the number of elementary schools with a 95 percent attendance rate. Other one-year goals include decreasing the number of students who are chronically absent by 20 percent and decreasing the truancy rate to 7 percent  or lower.

Lewis said in the coming weeks he expected to meet with parents, school leaders and members of the community to map out more specifics on how each entity will play a role.

CBS 6 News will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest developments.