Family outreach worker tells Mystery Lake school board about his efforts to increase attendance

Jason Bayer, family outreach co-ordinator for the School District of Mystery Lake, gave an impassioned presentation to the school board Jan. 14 regarding his work with struggling families, and the challenge of improving school attendance for affected children in Thompson.

“I respectfully want to call on every child caring agency in Thompson, under the Northern Authority, and ask them to please attend the Hub Committee meetings that I’m a part of every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Ma-Mow-We-Tak Friendship Centre. They are more than welcome, so I hope they’ll consider this an invite, because it’s going to make everyone’s job a hell of a lot easier – for our kids and families.”

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The main goal of Bayer’s job is to “build and maintain relationships with families and children,” he explained. “There is a wall, as everyone knows, between families and schools. So, I chip at it slowly to keep relationships and home visits positive. The goal is to improve attendance. I wish I could help at all schools.”

Bayer said there are red flags with some of the kids who are not attending, and administration, teachers and social workers reach out to him for help.

“I wish it was just as easy as saying, ‘Let’s just get your kids to school,’” he explained. “But usually it’s about 15 different things that family is struggling with. It’s a challenge. I average 71 family visits a month. A lot of them are the same families I go to…sometimes 10 times per month. I’ve worked with 349 different families in three schools since I started.”

Effective outreach means phone calls and home visits, says Bayer.

“But I get a lot of texts and emails and messages on Facebook,” he said. “There are times when I give the families rides to either mental health appointments, medical appointments, help them grab groceries and drop them off. So basically, I’m there guiding families. Student success is the bottom line.”

Bayer also helps some of the newer school staff to understand the dynamics of marginalized families in Thompson.

“This is the key to my job … to develop partnerships,” he explained. “By breaking down those barriers, we will create better childhood education outcomes. But I’m only one person with a lot of families.”

Bayer said there are many reasons why children miss school.

“I think some of the families need to be empowered, so there are parenting programs there to help them,” he said. “There’s drugs, there’s selling drugs, so they are at the TRCC [Thompson Regional Community Centre] with their little backpack on selling drugs, and not going to school. For a lot of kids, it’s too cold and too far. With some females it’s anxiety. There are so many reasons why they are not attending school.”

For more information on Hub Committee meetings, please contact Jason Bayer at 204-778-4511.

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