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Like many rural communities across our country, residents of Republic, Washington face many challenges due to its limited resources. This, coupled with limited transportation options, makes access to essential resources a significant challenge for families. Finding basic necessities like medical care, especially mental health resources, is significantly more difficult due to the community’s remote location.

Communities In Schools® (CIS®) of Rural Eastern Washington has a presence in four local school districts: Curlew, Mary Walker, Northport, and Republic, all of which are remote communities tackling educational challenges.

The Republic School District, a small K-12 campus with 435 students, faces an attendance challenge. While approximately 70% of students meet their monthly attendance goal, the remaining 30% fall into chronic absenteeism, missing 10% or more of school days.

According to the most recent federal data from the 2020-21 school year, this national issue saw chronic absenteeism nearly double nationwide, from 8 million students to 14.7 million students nationally. Schools traditionally focus on daily attendance, potentially overlooking students who miss enough school to fall behind. If left unaddressed, chronic absenteeism can result in students having difficulty reading, progressing in middle school, and even interfering with high school graduation. Source: Attendance Works

In response to the chronic absenteeism challenge, CIS of Rural Eastern Washington prioritized attendance within their Tier 1 School Support Plan. This plan offers school-wide services and resources available to all students, designed to foster a positive school climate and address risk factors contributing to absences. To address the challenge, CIS Site Coordinator Shannon Young implemented a proactive strategy.

To encourage attendance, CIS of Rural Eastern Washington launched a monthly attendance competition. To win, classes needed to achieve a 90% attendance rate or higher for a given month. The program saw immediate results, with all first through sixth-grade classes reaching the target in October

and earning an ice cream social as a reward. In December, the bar’s attendance rose to 91% or higher per class, and once again, all classes met the goal and earned a hot cocoa social.

“The school received tons of positive feedback from parents. Students are excited to attend school so they can be in the attendance class of the month. In fact, they hold their parents accountable to make sure they get them to school on time.” Shannon Young, CIS of Rural Eastern Washington.

As the school year progresses, the competition concludes in a year-end roller-skating part with pizza for the class with the highest average attendance. This initiative addresses chronic absenteeism and fosters a sense of community and achievement among the students.

“I see a site coordinator making a significant impact in many areas. Site coordinators have improved school achievement in many areas, not just academics. Still, students can get the support they need to continue moving ahead,” says Amy Sharbono, Elementary Secretary and Registrar of Republic School District. “Our CIS site coordinator, Shannon, is really good at having a soft place to land for kids to get them adjusted for the day before they go to class, which is very beneficial.”

Beyond the attendance program, Shannon and her team have led several initiatives that foster engagement, accountability, and commitment among Republic’s K-8 students. These include monthly birthday celebrations, fostering a sense of community, ‘Tiger Pride Fridays’ promotion of school spirit, and the Girls Empowerment Club, which empowers young girls.

To celebrate student achievement and encourage family engagement, Republic School District hosts quarterly ‘I Make a Difference’ assemblies. Teachers nominate students who demonstrate the school’s core values: personal responsibility, positive attitude, kindness, and academic commitment. These assemblies honor the students and provide parents and families with an opportunity to be part of their child’s academic journey.

In Republic’s rural community, Shannon and the CIS of Rural Eastern Washington have created an environment that connects families to resources they need, allowing students to focus on academic success and thrive in school.

For more information, visit:

CIS of Rural Eastern Washington

Student Supports and Services

Chronic Absenteeism

A big thanks to the Communities In Schools® (CIS®) National office for making it possible to share this story! 
Read the original feature on the CIS National website