Students miss school days in Old Bridge

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By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — Ten percent, or more than 900 students, have not been attending school on a regular basis in the Old Bridge School District.

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That jarring statistic was announced as Schools Superintendent David Cittadino and Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Hoeker announced the 2016-17 school year theme — Disconnect to Reconnect — at the first in-service day for the school year held at Old Bridge High School Sept. 1.

Hoeker said the Old Bridge School District — comprised of 12 elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school — has been identified as a district that had 10 percent of its students experience chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing 10 percent or more school days.

“Nine hundred-plus students are not attending school regularly,” she said. “What can we do?”

Hoeker set goals to identify these students and asked every elementary school teacher to “make an extra connection” with one student and secondary teachers to connect with two students.

“Find these students, make the connection, and get to know them and their families,” she said, adding teachers should then contact administration to let them know how they accomplished this.

“It’s important to let them know it is important to come to school in Old Bridge,” she said.

Cittadino asked for volunteers from the audience made up of administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries and staff in attendance to suggest ways to connect with students and families.

Suggestions included holding weekly student-teacher lunches and holding monthly parent-teacher meetings.

The superintendent said it is important to “disconnect to reconnect” with family, friends and nature and to de-stress.

Cittadino and Hoeker presented a video, which brought laughter to the audience. The two were videotaped in a car traveling through the township, visiting with administrators and staff while singing a variety of oldies tunes. The video mimics James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” videos that air on the “Late Late Show.”

At the conclusion of the presentation, the teachers and staff watched a video from Olympian Laurie Hernandez, who attended Voorhees School up to grade three before becoming home-schooled and whose brother graduated from Old Bridge High School.

Laurie, 16, earned a gold medal as part of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team as well as a silver medal for her individual performance on the balance beam during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

The video was taped at the township’s celebration honoring Laurie on August 27.

“Hope you have an amazing year,” Laurie said. “You all deserve a gold medal.”

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@gmnews.com.

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