photo by Jerry Baldock
photo by Jerry Baldock
Passers-by may have wondered what all the police vehicles with flashing lights and sirens out front of Sisters Elementary School were all about the morning of Thursday, October 10. The blaring music, police cars, and SWAT vehicles were part of the “Strive for 95” attendance initiative underway in Sisters School District — as well as an opportunity for elementary students to get to know more about law enforcement personnel in Sisters Country.

The district has a goal of 95 percent attendance for the 2019-20 school year in response to a notable drop in attendance over the past few years. For 2018-19 attendance rates overall for the district were just above 80 percent.

Based on a model used by Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office in the community of La Pine during the last few years, the rally included officers handing out — you guessed it —donuts to parents and guardians as they dropped their kids off for school. Sisters School District Resource Officer Brent Crosswhite, who helped coordinate the event with principal Joan Warburg, was one of a number of officers out front handing drivers donuts and thanking them for getting the kids to school.

“It’s really about promoting positive attendance and getting students to want to come to school and be engaged because as educators, we know how important consistent attendance is for learning,” said Warburg. “We are hoping this campaign will help reduce unnecessary absences.”

As part of the incentive, the four classrooms at the elementary school that had the highest rate of attendance for the day also received donuts.

Officers visited the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms to do some reading with the students and other interactions in order to allow kids to get a close up view of the police as real people, according to Crosswhite. In addition, some classes got to meet Deputy Keith Snyder and his canine companion, Brolo of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit.

Snyder and Brolo conducted a presentation for grades 3 and 4 about how dogs are used by the sheriff’s department. Brolo is trained as a patrol (tracking and apprehension) dog. Snyder gave an overview of how dogs like Brolo are trained and how they help police officers, before bringing Brolo out to let him “play” with another officer wearing a protective arm covering used in training the dogs.

Just as he was finishing up the question-and-answer period, Snyder and Brolo got called to a case unfolding in southern Deschutes County, underscoring that they are basically on call all the time.

“This event is an opportunity for the sheriff’s office to support the Sisters School District in attendance and at the same time let us get to the know the kids, you know, showing them that cops are people too,” he said. “Everyone enjoys a donut and it’s kind of a win-win for us by giving us a chance to be inside the school and teach kids at an early age that police officers do much more than just chase bad guys.”

Tim Roth, an assistant principal for both the middle school and high school is taking the lead on the “Strive for 95” initiative.

“Good attendance habits need to start in elementary school, so we feel good about this event taking place on that site,” he said. “To break it down, students who have two or fewer absences per quarter would achieve the 95 percent goal, which we think is attainable.”