High truancy and student expulsions are not just problems in Rockford but an issue for the entire state. A special task force meets to figure out ways to bring the numbers down.
The Illinois legislature has sent this task force around the state to look for what's working and what's not to keep students from skipping school or getting expelled.
"The question is do we have the capacity to serve the kids and the answer is no, we do not have the capacity to serve everyone because of budget cuts," says Harold Sweeney, At-Risk Services Director for Boone/Winnebago Counties Regional Office of Education.
That is going to be the message Sweeney will send to the School Success Task Force. Sweeney works out of the Regional Learning Academy where students from both counties go if they have been expelled or suspended. So far the academy's been able to accommodate all the students who have asked to attend. But last year only 159 went to RLA. Just in truancy cases alone there were 300 students.
"We would love to provide the intervention and the programs that students need to provide school on a regular basis," says Sweeney.
State Representative William Davis, the co-chair of the task force, hopes that by the end of the year he will have the answer on how to keep students in class. But he says he needs to hear from parents, students and administrators.
"Even if we can't produce answers just yet we hope that some of the information is being provided for. They may be able to answer the question of why they feel these truancy numbers are so high, is it solely because you have so many students on free and reduced lunch or are there some other mitigating factors that involve the family, the community itself," says Davis.
The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Court Street United Methodist Church in Rockford. Everyone is invited to attend.
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