While APS students are savoring the final days of summer vacation, APS social workers are knocking on doors reminding families about the first day of school. They make the rounds every year but this time they are carrying blue and white yard signs and fliers promoting the district’s Day One: Be There back-to-school attendance campaign. Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen announced the initiative during her first board meeting in July.
This week, the district’s 28 social workers are canvassing communities with help from local police, parent liaisons and other volunteers. Working in teams, the groups are visiting area businesses, local boys and girls clubs and neighborhoods. Specific home visits are made to addresses where mail has been returned. The main focus is on school zones for Carver High School, Washington High School and Young Middle School. Denise Revels, Coordinator of Social Work Services, created a plan to ensure a strong presence in communities shown to have higher student absences.
A group of six social workers, with more than 70 years combined experience among them, engaged residents at three different locations before noon on Thursday. At the Villages at Carver Family YMCA they encountered a Pre-K teacher. “I’m ready,” said Antoinette Johnson, who teaches at another YMCA location.
“It’s all about meeting the people wherever they are.” said Louis Childers. He made the transition to APS 22 years ago after working as a Social Worker Officer with the Air Force. His focus has always been children and families even at clinics on bases around the world.
The social workers know they are making an impact, especially in areas that are often forgotten. Emerson Jones has been at APS 28 years, all of them as a social worker. He partnered with a program that delivers lunches to children in an area known for its drug activities. Jones says many in that community were not aware that school resumes August 4. Jones stressed the importance of going into communities. “We really have to build relationships and build trust,” Jones said.
Lisa Jamison has been with APS 14 years. She says nothing beats the personal touch of canvassing neighborhoods like this. “I think it’s effective because it brings us to the community… we are an extension of the schools.”
APS social workers wrap up their canvassing efforts on Friday. The district will partner with local organizations to host registration events Saturday, July 26. Open houses will take place at all APS schools Friday, August 1.
Day One for Atlanta Public Schools is Monday, August 4. Be There.