The Jackson County Board of Education is considering a partnership with the Fifth Judicial Circuit that would put a probation officer in county schools to help reduce the rate of truancy.
Students are considered chronically absent if they miss 10 percent of the school year. Last year, Jackson County had 1,150 students who qualified as chronically absent, said Superintendent Blaine Hess.
The West Virginia Legislature has made grant funds available for probation officer to work with students whose truancy cases might be headed to magistrate court. Last year, the system had 170 cases that went to court.
“A lot more than that were referred, but that’s the number that actually went due to backlog,” Hess said.
Hess noted both Roane and Mason counties have taken advantage of the grant funding.
The grant would pay for half of the probation officer’s salary. The approximate salary of a school-based probation officer would be $57,500 to $61,000, Hess said. The Board of Education would pay half of that expense under the terms of the grant.
Hess said Circuit Judge Lora Dyer has been very supportive of the idea and has been working on ways to combat truancy in Jackson County. He met with her recently to discuss the probation officer position.
Hess said he will bring a memorandum of understanding to the next BOE meeting for the board’s consideration.
The probation officer would be another tool to combat the growing problem of truancy. After a while, students become immune to the efforts to curb excessive absence by their teachers and administrators. Hearing it from an officer of the court might be more impactful.
Board vice president Jim Frazier said the problem begins early.
“It seems like it starts out in elementary school and goes up from there,” he said.