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NYC Program To Fight Chronic Absenteeism In Schools

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/ AP) -- New York City students missing classes?  Not if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has anything to say about it.

In all, 240,000 students missed 20 or more days of school last year.  Now, the city is beginning a gentle crackdown on the problem by giving them a boost from mentors assigned to keep them in school, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reports.

LISTEN: WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reports

Bloomberg on Thursday announced a pilot program to fight the truancy. When school starts next month, 25 schools with high absentee rates will get extra support including mentors who will call students at home if they don't show up to class.

In addition, the mentors will help set up tutoring for any subjects the students are struggling in.

The program also includes free backpacks and counseling sessions to find out what is going on in students' lives.

Bloomberg says the mentors will focus mainly on 9th grade students because "that is when attendance falls most sharply and students begin to drop out of school."

New York City's 1.1 million-student public school system had an overall attendance rate of 90 percent last year. Attendance at some schools was much lower.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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