IRVING, Texas — In a time when connecting with kids is more challenging, Irving ISD is going the extra mile to check on students who aren’t showing up to their online classes.  

Members of the district’s campus operations team are working to break the stigma that a visit from an attendance officer is for disciplinarian reasons. 

In an average week the district’s 18 campus operations team members make 150 home visits. Their aim is to have the students they visit feel comfortable with them, with the hope of better understanding their situation. 

Attendance Officer Norma Jimenez says many of the students she visits want to return to school but are unable to for an assortment of reasons. It’s her job to make sure the primarily middle school students she’s visiting have everything they need to attend their classes, whether in person or online.  

Some days she’ll make 20 house visits to check on students, many of whom haven’t engaged with their teachers or schools in weeks. 

“I’m well aware of the many challenges these kids face,” said Jimenez. “A lot of these kids are home alone and just need guidance.” 

She says these visits are an opportunity to check on students and families and lend assistance as needed, whether it’s swapping out hotspots or iPads to alleviate connectivity issues or connecting families with resources to have their electricity turned back on. 

One issue Jimenez and her fellow attendance officers encounter is students left unattended. She’s visited with neglected kids who say they miss the daily lunch they’d normally get on campus. 

In an effort to address the issue of hunger, one day a week, the district’s campus operations staff pair into teams of two and deliver bags of easy-to-prepare food like boxes of mac and cheese to the homes they’re visiting that day. 

 “I see them as my own kids,” said Jimenez. “If they’re suffering, I want to do whatever I can to be there and help them.”  

Lead Administrator of District's Campus Operations Michael Crotty says the bag of treats helps break the ice of a visit because of truancy. Some of the students and families are often nervous to see an attendance officer at their door. 

“It’s a mutual anxiety,” said Crotty. “We’re not always sure how we’ll be received and they don’t always know what to expect.” 

Crotty says in recent months these home visits have provided fruit--his team has seen a success rate of 84% of students returning to school. 

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