A. Garcia / SFVS

LAUSD  Board Member Kelly Gonez and Local District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto with student of El Dorado.

If you don’t think going to school pays off, you should ask the students at El Dorado Avenue Elementary School in Sylmar.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students returned to their campuses on Monday, Jan. 8, but a few were surprised with a check before heading to the classroom.

And a big check it was.

El Dorado Avenue received $10,000 after winning an attendance competition organized by the LAUSD’s Local District Northeast.

The contest was simple: a challenge to the 121 elementary, middle and high schools in the region encompassing the northeast San Fernando Valley to see who had the best attendance on Dec. 15, the last day before the winter break.

Why that day? Historically, that’s one of the lowest attendance days of the year. Many families travel out of state or out of the country and opt not to send their children to school. Some students simply decide not to show up and start their vacation earlier. Whatever the reason, schools feel it.

In 2016, El Dorado Avenue had 88.1 percent attendance on that day. Last December, it was 95.4 percent, the best in the local district.

Principal Adan Martinez said he did everything he could to encourage parents and students to participate.

“We did an outreach blast to parents, we talked with students during lunch, we had it on our display board,” Martinez said.

He had already started an attendance improvement campaign, and the contest “just pushed it over the edge.The parents and the students seemed to respond.”

Attendance Matters

It is said that getting to school is half the battle. And the LAUSD is pushing hard with an #AttendanceMatters campaign to get students into the classroom.

“Attendance is the strongest indicator of academic success in the future,” said District Northeast Superintendent Linda Del Cueto, who attended a Monday morning assembly at El Dorado Avenue to announce the check.

“If you want to attend college and get a good job, you have to be in school every single day. If you’re not here, you can’t learn,” added LAUSD Board Member Kelly Gonez, who also attended.

It’s not just the students who benefit from attendance — schools do so as well. Del Cueto noted that “the way schools receive their funding is based on attendance. The more you come to class, the more revenue we get for schools.”

Indeed, “If every student came to school just one more day in the school year, that would mean an additional $30 million dollars annually,” LAUSD Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said in a statement.

Behind student attendance are obviously parents, especially the ones who take them to school

Kim Lopez, mother of a fourth grade student at El Dorado Avenue, said she has developed a routine so that her son is ready for school every day.

“It’s ‘get your backpack ready, take a shower, get into bed, read and go to sleep,’” she explained.

That way there are no problems in the morning.

And she emphasizes “it has to come from the parents.”

The Prize

But what about the $10,000?

The money has to be used to benefit the students.

Principal Martinez has a plan. On Friday, Jan. 12, the students are getting a special surprise.

The students will also have an extra field trip this year and there are other science-related events designed to motivate students to come to school.

El Dorado was not the only school in Local District Northeast to get a cash prize for their attendance on Dec. 15. Three other schools also received $5,000 each: Sylmar Biotech Health Academy, which had  95 percent attendance; Rio Vista Elementary in North Hollywood, with 94.9 percent attendance; and Grant High School  with 94.1 percent attendance.