At David Weir K-8 Preparatory Academy in Fairfield, California, many of the students come from low-income families. More than 90 percent are on free or reduced-fee lunch programs. In the overall district, at-risk students missed an average of 12 days in the 2014/2015 school year.
This year, that number was reduced to 3.5 days missed, meaning those students attended almost two more weeks than the average. The difference? The schools installed a washing machine.
According to Today.com, two school districts in California were chosen to participate in the Whirlpool Care Counts program, an experiment that was designed to see if attendance with low-income or at-risk students could be increased by offering on-site laundry services. At David Weir, many students are considered transient or even homeless; clean clothes can be difficult to come by, and some children may opt to skip class rather than come in wearing unwashed apparel.
One student, Vanessa, told a Whirlpool documentary crew that her home had a washer and dryer, but their electricity had been shut off.
"There are things we just take for granted for our kids," Martha Lacy, principal of David Weir, said. "Food, clothes, having a bed to sleep in at night. I know many of my kids don't have any one of those three things. We can address the food issue, and we can address if they need any kind of social services, but up until this year, we've never had anything to address having clean clothes."
Organizers approached at-risk students and offered the laundry service, with one caveat: they had to be in class while it was getting done. Of the participating students in 17 schools, 93 percent increased attendance. And according to teachers, these students didn’t just show up—they were more engaged and more likely to participate in class or extracurricular activities.
Whirlpool plans to add 30 additional schools this fall and is currently accepting donations to help fund the expansion. You can learn more about the program in the video below.