New Center Offers Chronically Absent Students Tutors, Mentors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg is revving up New York City’s efforts to beat school truancy.

The city has created an Engagement Center, located at the Police Athletic League building in West Harlem, that will help battle truancy by offering students a number of services including tutoring and mental health counseling.

The center has staff from the Department of Education, the District Attorney’s Office and the Police Athletic League, along with social workers who will work with chronically absent high school students.

Bloomberg’s chief policy advisor John Feinblatt said when a police officer picks up a student at a park, they’ll be brought to the PAL office.

“We will attempt to engage that kid by trying to figure out why this kid isn’t going to school, we can assign them to a mentor, we will engage with the family and we’ll make a commit to stick with this kid over the long haul,” Feinblatt said.

Various studies show that more than a quarter million New York City students miss as much as a month of school every year. They’re at higher risk of dropping out or failing to graduate.

The center is the latest initiative by an interagency task force that has been leading an effort to combat truancy and chronic absenteeism.

“We’ve taken major steps in the last three years to reduce chronic absenteeism by developing innovative strategies that have proven highly effective,” said Bloomberg. “The opening of this Engagement Center is the next step in ensuring our children are provided with the support they need to stay in school and off the streets – for their safety and their academic futures.”

The center will also get parents involved by training them to monitor their child’s attendance electronically.

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