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Group goes house-to-house to find hundreds of students who haven't come back to class after the pandemic

The goal is to engage students and bring them back to the classroom before they decide to drop out of high school.

GREELEY, Colo. — Years after the pandemic sent students home to learn remotely, not everyone has come back to the classroom. Hundreds of students in one Northern Colorado school district stopped showing up to class as the district tries to get them to come back and finish high school. The problem is happening everywhere. 

"My main goal is to get students back and engaged at school," Jordan Tellez, an Attendance Advocate with the Zero Dropouts organization, said. "We’ll go knocking, we’ll call home, we’ll call grandma, grandpa, whoever is listed."

Greeley-Evans District 6 is using federal pandemic aid money to work with Zero Dropouts, an organization trying to get everyone back to school. 

The team from the Zero Dropouts organization goes house to house, searching for students who haven’t come back to school after the pandemic sent everyone home. 

Some students stayed home to take care of family, others started working, and others have simply stopped coming to class. There are a lot of students left to find.

"Hundreds, yes," Tellez said. "I think last year there was almost actually close to 1,000 that we made contact with."

Going door to door, house to house searching for students is the last resort for Zero Dropouts. They start by calling, texting and emailing every number before going into neighborhoods and knocking on doors where they think the students might live. 

While there are still hundreds of students who haven’t come back to class, the team has gotten hundreds more back in school over the past year.

The work is challenging. 9News followed the team for several hours as they went across Greeley from neighborhood to neighborhood. At one home, they could hear voices inside but no one answered. At another, the missing student's registered address was wrong. At another, the missing student's brother says she was out of state. 

"It does get frustrating at times when you’re knocking on doors and the address is wrong or nobody answers and you’re unable to get ahold of anyone. It can be frustrating and it’s difficult," Tellez said. "We’ll go knocking, down back alleys. We’ll try and find you."

Amanda Fierro spent the last school year search for missing students. This year, she’s in the classroom teaching them at Greeley Central High School. 

"The beginning of the year last year when we chased so many of them, to see that they’ve been here everyday this year, it’s such a major accomplishment," Fierro said. "They’ll pass by my office and they’ll say, hey, I’m here. Or miss, I’m doing this this year. Or I got a new job. It feels good that they don’t hold anything against me but they appreciate what I did for them."

The hallways inside Greeley Central High School are crowded again. Zero Dropouts knows there’s more work to be done for them to be full.

"It’s not to get anybody in trouble. It’s to just have that success story for every child and every family who hasn’t had one," Fierro said. "I wanted them to do good. I wanted them to succeed. I want them to have a future."

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