Beaufort County educators and volunteers will spend Saturday knocking on the doors of roughly 200 students who have not returned to school since summer.
They hope their knocks not only open doors, but students' minds to the importance of earning a diploma.
"I want to believe that knocking on the door will help dramatically, and that creating a personal connection will cause the student to rethink their future," superintendent Jeff Moss said. "This is a way to reconnect with these students and try to put them on a path where they can still continue their education."
Saturday will be the district's first "Knockout Dropout Day." The goal is to persuade the students to return to school before Oct. 1, when the state will officially designate them as dropouts.
When the school year began Aug. 18, about 600 students did not report to high school, district spokesman Jim Foster said. Over the past several weeks, the district has reduced that number to under 200 through calls and emails.
Head of student services Gregory McCord said the district is pleased that a majority of the students have returned, but he wants to make one last effort to reach the rest. The district's dropout rate was just under 5 percent last year, McCord said.
"We want to have everyone accounted for by the end of September if possible," McCord said. "But it's not just about getting them back by that date, but getting them all the way through high school to graduation."
To accomplish that, McCord said, the district will try to understand why the students left -- whether they have to work to support their family, feel discouraged academically or have other reasons. After the district identifies the reasons, it will monitor the students and offer services to help them stay in school, he said.
School board member Evva Anderson said other options must also be considered to make education more accessible. That could include placing the students in an alternative school or helping them pursue adult education, she said.
As an added incentive, McCord said adult education registration fees would be waived for students who change their minds about dropping out.
"I think knocking on doors makes a difference because there are so many kids that need to know somebody is paying attention," said Anderson, who also co-chairs the Student Services Committee.
Anderson said she will be among the teachers, district staff, social workers, church leaders and volunteers knocking on doors Saturday. She is optimistic it will go "exceptionally well," she said.
McCord said such programs have worked in other areas and has high hopes for Beaufort County. The district plans to make it an annual event, he added.
"This is an all-out effort to reconnect with students," McCord said. "The goal is to impart on students that education is important, and (that) it opens doors."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
- SC dropouts decline for 4th straight year; Beaufort County's rise, July 24, 2013
- 'State of the Schools' event brings focus to Beaufort County high school dropout rate, September 7, 2012
- Beaufort, Jasper schools seek community help to raise graduation rates: Breakfast on Friday to outline Beaufort's work with Grad Nation, September 4, 2012
- District increases focus on middle-schoolers to reduce dropouts, July 28, 2012