Harrison County Board of Education’s social workers expand role to include home visits

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Attendance is an issue many schools deal with and Harrison County has expanded the role of its three social workers to now help to bridge the gap between home and school life.

“We have got to get kids in school and one of the greatest ways to do that is to meet those families where their needs are our social workers go out and address those needs with families,” said Jim Kirby, director of attendance.

The social workers are now making home visits in an attempt to increase attendance.

“Ten unexcused absences is truancy as defined by West Virginia State Code,” added Kirby.

Last year the county had 1,500 truancy meetings and this year they hope that with the help of social workers, making those home visits means there won’t have to be as many meetings. Now most of the home visits are done with elementary age students and families.

“We have noticed a little bit of a trend that we need to improve our relationships and bridge that gap between families in the school system and doing these home visits is one way we are able to achieve that,” said Sarah Starkey, social worker.

Once students step inside a school, they are met with learning and wellness resources but these home visits help assess what is needed when the student isn’t at school, working to improve a student’s home life.

“I have made referrals this school year for Moutainstate Transportation to help children who have missed schools for appointments but have also missed appointments because of lack of transportation. I have connected them to resources so they can make those appointments and then in turn those absences are then excused from school with a doctor’s note,” explained Starkey.

That doctor’s note is crucial for marking a student’s absence as excused. Social workers said that often times during their home visits, they are simply clarifying the attendance policy because parents and guardians don’t fully understand it.

“Parents don’t realize that they have to submit their excuses within 3 days of a students return,” said Bobbi Jo Harbert, social worker.

The county is hoping the home visits provide resources at home so that students are more ready to learn in the classroom.