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Grant allows area truancy program to help more students

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

An area truancy program designed to keep students on track is being expanded to help even more students during the upcoming school year.

Thanks to a recent grant from the governor's office, Truancy Diversion Services, administered by the Burlington United Methodist Family Services Inc. in Fairmont, will join with the Division of Health and Human Resources and county boards of education to help students overcome obstacles that keep them from attending school.

"We recognize that truancy is just an indicator of other issues occurring in the lives of children and their families," said Angie Wagner, supervisor of the truancy program that covers Harrison, Doddridge, Marion and Monongalia counties.

"Once we work with the students to resolve those other issues, their school attendance rates can improve," she said.

The truancy program originated with Burlington's social services in Mineral County six years ago, and expanded to this area last November. Through April, more than 260 students who were having problems that prevented them from regular school attendance had been served by the social workers.

The recent grant will take the program statewide and will add 12 more truancy diversion social workers to the four-county area. That will give Monongalia, Marion and Harrison six social workers each and one full-time social worker in Doddridge County.

"We're pretty excited about having the chance to go forward with the program. Since November we've only scratched the surface, but with the extra staff we'll be able to reach many more children and their families," Wagner said.

Wagner said the agency will link up with county attendance officers and with the Division of Health and Human Services, who will refer students for the needed services.

"What's unique about the program is that it's a true collaboration, pulling together the DHHR, the educational system and children and their families. We are the link pulling it together to make things work more smoothly," Wagner said.

Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447.

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