Been skipping school? Mayor Wu may be knocking on your door.


Wu joined volunteers ahead of the new school year to knock on doors and encourage chronically absent students to return to class.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, left, and Superintendent Mary Skipper visit a home in Roxbury on Sept. 6. They were knocking on doors as part of the Boston Public Schools Re-Engagement Center’s annual canvass, encouraging students with a history of chronic absenteeism to attend classes. Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe Staff

As Boston prepares to head back to school, some of the city’s students received an unusual surprise this week: A knock on their door from Mayor Michelle Wu. 

The mayor joined school leaders and dozens of volunteers on Wednesday for the Boston Public Schools Re-Engagement Center’s annual canvass, a creative approach to encourage chronically absent students to return to class. 

“We know it’s effective,” Wu said of the outreach program at a press conference Wednesday. “We know it makes a difference, and today we got to see directly at the doors what that means for individual students and families.”

A student is considered chronically absent if they miss 18 or more days in a school year.

Boston had a 35% chronic absenteeism rate districtwide during the 2022-23 school year, down from 42% the year prior, according to BPS data. The district noted in May that chronically absent students are predominantly those with the highest needs, including students from low-income households, non-native English speakers, and students with disabilities.

“I think our experience — and I felt really humbled about this — was to actually be able to get to talk to the young people who … in our case were chronically absent,” BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper said.

Some were dealing with medical or family issues, she said. Others had gotten off track during the pandemic and struggled to return.

“And all of them were appreciative and really wanting to understand what [their] options were,” Skipper said. “I think that’s really what the day’s about, is just having that conversation, showing care, showing love … and letting our young people and their families know we care, we’re here, and that we have supports for them.”

Re-Engagement Center Director Emmanuel Allen said the annual canvass helps school leaders connect faces and families to the numbers and statistics. 

“One of the things I like about door-knocking is that you not only get to see the young person who’s on the list, but you also get to see their family, the network,” he said. 

“To me, I just like to make lists real,” Allen added. “I like to talk to human beings, and I think this is an opportunity for us to do that and to kind of touch and connect with families and students.”