Sacramento-Area School Districts Struggle with Attendance

SACRAMENTO -- Showing up to school, apparently, isn't as easy at it seems.

"We noticed that mental health issues and health issues are the two leading factors in why students don't attend school," Sacramento City Unified School District spokesperson Alex Barrios said.

According to new data released by the California Department of Education, Sacramento County students rank third from last place for chronic absences.

The United States Department of Education defines chronically absent as a student being absent once every 10 school days. That comes out to missing two days a month.

The state average is 11 percent of students.

It's 20 percent in the Twin Rivers Unified School District. Fifteen percent for both San Juan and Sacramento Unified school districts.

Not counting continuation, alternative, or adult schools, Luther Burbank High School in South Sacramento had the highest numbers -- more than 30 percent of students were chronically absent.

"The school year, like the beginning there was less," Luther Burbank student Carlos Reyes said.

But students here are realizing that as the school year goes on, the more kids take the day off. The data also shows chronic absences have a direct correlation to income status.

The more students who qualify for subsidized meals, the higher rate of chronic absence.

The SCUSD realizes the troubling numbers, and is working to improve them.

"That's one of the reasons we created these student support centers at 25 of our campuses, because they fill a gap that is sometimes not there. So if you don't have health insurance, places like this that bring health or mental health support to the school are helping to increase attendance rates," Barrios said. "If you're not in the classroom, then you're not learning. And you're not taking advantage of the education we are offering. So we are doing everything that we can to address the external forces that are at play here."