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First day of St. Louis Public Schools 2012

Students and parents at the Academy of Environmental Science & Mathematics look at a list of classes and teachers on display at the entrance of the school on Aug. 13, 2012, the first day of the academic year in St. Louis Public Schools. The school is the former site of the Imagine Academy of Environmental Science & Mathematics. Photo By David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • City schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams spoke from Mayor Francis Slay’s office Friday as part of an information blitz to remind parents and students that school starts Monday.

In a typical year, Adams said, about 20 percent of district students — more than 5,000 children — miss the first day of school for any number of reasons, ranging from not having school supplies to some parents’ mistaken belief that nothing much happens on the first day.

“On the first day, students meet their teachers, learn classroom expectations, and receive textbooks and reading material,” Adams said. “Children actually begin learning on the first day of school.”

Throughout the weekend, Adams, district staff and the Special Administrative Board will take their message to 32 churches. They plan to canvass neighborhoods, send out texts and phone blasts to get as many students as possible into the 67 schools that make up the city school system.

St. Louis also has 33 charter schools — public schools that operate independent of the district. Many of them start on Monday, or began this week. In all, more than 43,000 children in St. Louis attend either district, charter or private schools.

“Good attendance is imperative for their success,” Slay said.

City employees with children are being given time off Monday to get their children to school, meet teachers and see classrooms if they haven’t already, Slay said. He urged other employers to provide similar latitude to working parents.

“Every day that a child is not in class, he or she is falling farther behind and will reach a point of not being able to catch up,” Slay said.

Adams said this starts with missing the first day. Of the 604 students who must repeat a grade this year, one out of five missed the first day, he said.

The district works with the juvenile division of St. Louis Circuit Court and Judge David Mason to identify chronically truant children and get the proper support for families to get them in school.

Fighting truancy is an annual challenge for the district at the start of any school year. About 5,000 children in city schools are classified as homeless, making it difficult for them to get school supplies and clothing for school.

Some district schools have the highest mobility rates in the state. In some buildings, the percentage of children who transfer in and out during the school year exceeds the overall enrollment.

About 26,800 students are expected to attend district schools.

“We are really working this year to change kids’ lives,” Adams said. “The core of that is education.”

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