Madison Elementary tackling chronic absences and district poverty in new pilot program

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Madison Elementary is piloting a new transportation program to help cut down on student absences while also addressing the district poverty issue.

Steve Mielenhausen, the Principal at Madison Elementary School, said there are about 40 students who are chronically absent from school, mainly due to a lack of reliable transportation.

"We are a 100 percent walking school and there are some neighborhoods that are really far away from Madison," said Mielenhausen. "Students have to walk through some pretty difficult neighborhoods to get here."

To help combat the absences, Madison Elementary is piloting a new busing program that picks up students who are missing more than 11 percent of school days. The students only qualify if they live south of Locust Street and would have a shorter walk to an existing bus stop than to school.

Mielenhausen said a lot of the students who are chronically absent, live in families who can't afford reliable transportation or have parents who work shifts during the times students have to go to school.

In Davenport, 18 percent of residents live below the poverty line. That number is higher than Bettendorf, PV, and North Scott communities, as well as the national average, which is 12.4 percent.

"Whenever you have a situation where a family is in poverty, there are so many issues that kids are coming to school with," said Mielenhausen. "All that baggage that kids have when they walk into the building kind of gets in the way of students economic, social and academic success in school."

Mielenhausen also points out that Madison Elementary is located on the corner of Brady Street and Locust street, two of the most busiest streets to cross in the state of Iowa.

Madison Elementary is piloting the program for a year and will monitor school attendance records to see if anything improves. If the program works to help curb those absences, the Davenport School District will look at ways to apply the program to all the other schools with chronic absences.

Currently, Madison Elementary is one of seven schools identified as having a high number of chronic absences. The other schools are Buchanan Elementary, Hayes Elementary, Monroe Elementary, Washington Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, and Young K-8.

The new pilot program is being presented to the Davenport School Board in their Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, March 2nd.

To view the presentation PDF, click here.