Kids in middle schools with attendance problems may simply lack clean clothes to wear. An experiment by the Whirlpool company has taken on the issue with significant results.
The Whirlpool Care Counts Program donated 17 pairs of washers and dryers to school districts in St. Louis and Fairfield, California. Kids with attendance problems were asked to bring their laundry to be cleaned while they were in class. Each student had approximately 50 loads of laundry done at school during the year, and more than 90 percent increased their attendance, with at-risk students attending almost two more weeks in class. Whirlpool is now expanding the program.
Compared to factors such as economic opportunity, unemployment and institutional racism, laundry might seem inconsequential, but for a 10-year-old facing stacked odds, having nothing clean to wear could be the deciding factor in whether or not they want to face their classmates that day.
Seventh-grade teacher Alison Guernsey, in Fairfield, says, “One of my students had more or less withdrawn from school completely. After we started the program, he was more excited about coming and started to actively engage in class. He didn’t feel like an outsider anymore.”