How one Hawaii school is helping kids succeed by making sure the - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

How one Hawaii school is helping kids succeed by making sure they get to class

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WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

One of the biggest predictors of success in school is just showing up. 

And in Hawaii, many schools deal with high levels of chronic absenteeism. 

But there are signs of hope on Leeward Oahu, where an experimental program that brings together school officials and Family Court appears to be making headway.

In 2016, James-Joseph Routt an eighth grader at Waianae Intermediate School spent much of the school year at home, helping out his mother who has health problems.

"I felt bad because I'm a person in my family who loves school and wants a better education," the 13-year-old said.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 15 or more days in a school year.

When school officials recognized that James-Joseph was struggling to get to class, they enrolled him in the new pilot project.

As part of the program, school officials meet with judges at the Kapolei Family Court House each month.

"And from there, we dialogue, we have lots of conversations on what we can do and we start talking about specific students," said John Wataoka, principal at Waianae Intermediate School.

And for those students who are chronically truant, one of the main features of the program is relationship building.

"What we notice is as we start building relationships we find out more about our students, we find out more about our families situations," Wataoka said.

The program then finds support services to help stabilize and strengthen the families.

"And in return the result is students start coming to school on a more consistent basis," Wataoka said.

The program is now in its second year.

And early intervention is key. It's been expanded from 67 students to nearly 80 this year because students are making strides. And the state and Family Court are hoping to expand the program to more schools.

"We've had some students who, absent for like 80 days, now they have perfect attendance coming to school," Wataoka said. 

Their success stories include James-Joseph, who's now back in school and back on track.

"The plan is to stay in school, do my work, get good grades," he said.

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