Broadwater Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Robson

Broadwater Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Robson walks down Howard Avenue as one of the volunteers handing out reminders for the first day of school Thursday, August 10, 2017.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Last school year, Broadwater Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Robson ended up with 24 students in her class — more than allowed by Montana accreditation standards. 

But late registration ended up throwing enrollment projections out of whack, and the school's earliest grades ended up understaffed. 

That's part of why Robson was one of several volunteers canvassing neighborhoods around Broadwater, distributing door hangers with reminders about the first day of school and importance of consistent attendance. 

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Back to School

Broadwater Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Robson, left, and second grade teacher Stacee Barker hand out reminders for the first day of school Thursday, August 10, 2017.

No matter how many students Robson has in her class, keeping them on pace with their peers isn't just hard if they miss school frequently — "it's impossible," she said. 

A large body of research backs her up. Students who miss more than 15 days of school — of which there were more than 6 million nationwide in 2013-14 — are far more likely to fall behind. And if those habits are established early, they're likely to continue throughout school. 

But good habits can also last.

"We want to hit them when they're early and build those (good) habits," said Broadwater Principal Justin Huck. 

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Back to School

Broadwater Elementary principal Justin Huck talks to volunteers as they prepare to hand out reminders for the first day of school Thursday, August 10, 2017.

He also emphasized the importance of getting to school on time. 

"When we talk about chronic tardiness, it's not 10 minutes late," he said, but often hours late. 

The canvassing program is sponsored by United Way, and volunteers came from St. Vincent Healthcare, Broadwater, School District 2 administration and parents. 

The program expanded from about five to 14 schools this year. Students from low-income families are more likely to miss more school, and the program has typically targeted the district's poorest schools. 

About 60 percent of Broadwater's students are considered economically disadvantaged by the state. That's high for Billings, but not incredibly so.

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Broadwater Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Robson

Broadwater Elementary kindergarten teacher Amy Robson hangs a back-to-school reminder on a mailbox as volunteers hand out reminders for the first day of school Thursday, August 10, 2017.

As Robson and second-grade teacher Stacee Barker hung door hangers, lawns ranged from overgrown to opulent. Some were littered with toys and others immaculate.

School starts Aug. 24 for all SD2 schools. 

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.