CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For years, schools across the country have been battling chronic absenteeism, when a child misses 10 percent or more of the school year.
According to the non-profit Attendance Works website, before the pandemic, 8 million students were chronically absent.
It said since then, that number has more than doubled.
Corpus Christi Independent School District officials said they has been working to improve attendance numbers. The goal is a 95 percent attendance rate.
School staff members within the district, like Bridget Horan, are making extra efforts to achieve that goal.
Horan is a physical education teacher at Kostoryz Elementy School.
But on special occasions, she loses the gym clothes and becomes an entirely different character in costume.
"First day of school, I was a bee. I've been a pumpkin and Marshmallow Man," the school coach said.
This school year, Horan made a deal with her students. She said if they go to school, show up on time and behave, she'd wear a costume of their choice during the school's spirit week.
Her students chose a mythical creature.
"Of course, the kids picked out a unicorn. So, I bought an inflatable unicorn outfit," Horan said.
She wore the costume to school on Wednesday and even performed crossing guard duties dressed as a unicorn. She admitted it may have looked silly and it wasn't easy to wear in the heat. However, she said she's focused on her goal to encourage kids to come to school, even if that means motivating them, one costume at a time.
"We learned the more fun we make the learning environment, the higher attendance is. You know, the students are more engaged and they have something to look forward to," Horan said.