NEW BEDFORD--The New Bedford Public Schools launched a new attendance campaign Wednesday entitled "Every Day Counts."

The campaign kicked off at the Sgt. William H. Carney Academy, with New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro addressing students on the importance of attendance. As the school department teams with local organizations, businesses and community leaders to help spread that message, Chief Cordeiro will be the first to be featured in automated calls to the home of a student who is absent.

According to the school department, New Bedford’s attendance rate is 92.8%, while the state’s average is 94.9%.

"It's not an insurmountable gap, but we're going to have to all work really hard together to make sure that families and students understand why attendance is extremely important," schools spokesman Jonathan Carvalho told WBSM News.

The state’s 2015-2016 average for days absent is 8.8%, while New Bedford’s is 12.3%. Massachusetts’ rate of students absent 10 or more days is 30.5%, while New Bedford’s is 43.5%.

"Just eight days per term absences makes for an entire year, if you add up through a child's elementary school career," Carvalho said. "It's an entire year of absence. You've missed an entire year of a child's education."

The program also focuses on making sure students are punctual as well as present.

"A student who is just 10 minutes late each day will miss 30 hours of teaching and learning through the school year," Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin said.

Every Day Counts will include support from local partners in reinforcing the New Bedford Public Schools attendance policy, automated phone calls, and visibility and outreach materials for parents that provide important information and tips for families about school attendance.

Carvalho said educating parents on the importance of attendance is just as vital.

"Just reinforcing the idea that you should only be missing school for certain reasons, like very important medical reasons," he said, "And just reinforcing the idea that families need to be sure to call their school and let them know that their child's absence is not an unexcused absence."

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