When schools closed abruptly in March 2020 because of the pandemic, it was reported that 8,000 of Baltimore’s students had not logged into remote schooling. Roger Shaw is the district administrator whose responsibility it was to find them and find out what was keeping them from school. But the number was daunting, and he began with a strategy that included redeploying counselors and social workers and an outside contractor to do what they called “wellness checks.” The idea was not just to connect to students but to quickly solve whatever problems they might be having, from technology to time management.

In this conversation, Roger Shaw, head of Baltimore City Public School’s re-engagement center; Taiisha Swinton, principal of Digital Harbor High School; and David Heiber, president of Concentric Educational Solutions, talk about the systems and routines that the district has put in place to find and re-engage thousands of students. But, Heiber says, it’s not just procedures but the “passion” that makes “Baltimore a national model.”

As proud as she is of her school’s efforts to increase attendance and engagement, though, Swinton said she cautions her staff, “No one can ever say they’ve experienced this in the way we’re experiencing it right now,” she says. “All across the board. School leaders, district leaders, parents, students, everyone. What we have to do is really learn from our experiences.”

To learn more about the re-engagement center, go here. And to listen to a podcast produced by Digital Harbor High School students, search for RAMcast:Digital Harbor High on Google or Spotify.