PHARR, Texas (KVEO) — Truancy is not a new problem for schools, but figuring out how to stop it when so many kids are supposed to be learning virtually is.
The Boys & Girls Club were one resource for students this year to avoid the juvenile justice system.
“They’re not necessarily dropping out, they’re just not connecting to every class that they’re supposed to,” said Dahlia Aguila, principal of Lopez Early College High School.
Many students had uncontrollable circumstances due to the pandemic, making virtual learning impossible.
“There is some students that we have not been able to get ahold of and we know that it’s because—because we hear from neighbors—is because they’ve lost their home, or maybe had to move back to Mexico…and that has been an issue,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar said one of the biggest obstacles during the pandemic was having students actually connect to the internet, some of the connectivity issues were the reason for no-attendance.
However, the Boys & Girls Club stepped-up to be a place for students to connect and learn virtually.
“Some of the frustrations we heard from kids was: by the time my laptop is connecting… The teacher is already on the next question,” said Maria Palomo, Program Director, Youth and Family Services at the Boys & Girls Club San Juan.
The Boys & Girls Club of Pharr-San Juan leads a truancy program called H2O.
“It’s both a prevention and deferment program in the sense that we are trying to prevent anyone from being involved the juvenile justice system or defers that are already involved,” said director of development Rocio Mata.
With courts and other traditional referral sources closed, Mata says they identified at-risk students through word of mouth and grass-roots outreach.
“Had our people kinda hit the ground and said: go canvas your community, who’s lacking? Why are kids not showing up?,” said Mata.
H2O is not a one size fits all and considers each student’s individual case.
Palomo says students who were absent this past year have been emotionally overwhelmed.
“Then you’re looking at truancy or delinquency academically being a result of a lot of the emotional difficulties coming in with the transitions within the home,” said Palomo.
The Boys & Girls Club were awarded $133k and some funding has gone to hire mental health counselors for 2021.