The beginning of a new school year also means the beginning of a new initiative to keep kids in school until next summer.
The United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties will officially kickoff its Attendance Matters campaign Wednesday during its LIVE UNITED breakfast at the Richland Red Lion.
Developed by the organizations Community Solutions Committee and unveiled this spring, the campaign aims to reduce the number of days students miss class.
A survey of Tri-City attendance numbers shows student absences can affect academic performance, with A students missing fewer than five days a year while failing students miss 10 or more.
The committees efforts will be particularly focused on area middle schools, where students miss an average of 11 days each school year. Officials said the goal is to get the average number of absences down to 9.
All 10 public middle schools in the Tri-Cities are participating in the campaign, as are schools in Benton City and Burbank.
Its expected to include incentives to students to maintain perfect attendance and outreach to parents talking about the benefits of not missing school.
Along with efforts at individual schools, organizers have taken their message to the public at large.
A $25,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation paid for a series of commercials that were broadcast in the region to promote attendance.
The nonprofit also sponsored a poster campaign to promote the initiative.
Josee Lewis, an eighth-grader at Carmichael Middle School, won the Judges Award and received an iPad for her efforts.
Lexie Keck from Park Middle School won the Peoples Choice Award.