VICTORVILLE • More than halfway through the school year, local administrators say a contest to award a new Jeep to a high school student with perfect attendance has been a big hit.
"The numbers of kids who've had perfect attendance through the first semester is about five times who had perfect attendance last year through the whole year," said Luke Ontiveros, superintendent for Snowline Joint Unified School District.
As of Thursday afternoon, Serrano High School had 231 kids with perfect attendance. This time last year, they had fewer than 60.
Apple Valley Unified, Hesperia Unified, Snowline Joint Unified and Victor Valley Union High School districts are all participating in Victorville Motors' "It's a Gas to Go to Class" promotion.
One student with perfect attendance in any of nine area high schools will win a 2012 Jeep Patriot — approximately a $24,000 value. Other prizes include an iPad, flat screen televisions, scholarships, gift certificates and more. The school with the largest percentage increase in perfect attendance also gets $1,000 for the school's general fund.
And so far, the program seems to be working.
"Our attendance is up significantly," said Tom Hoegerman, superintendent of Apple Valley Unified. "The kids are talking about it, the parents are talking about it. ... We've been real pleased with the whole program and all the merchants who've participated."
Laurie Snow, recruitment placement specialist with the Victor Valley Union High, said the program has been well received in her district, too.
"The kids got a lot out of it," Snow said.
The promotion was the brainchild of two Victorville Motors sales associates who had heard about a much less ambitious program from a customer. All the students with perfect attendance as of May 11 will be invited to a rally at the dealership, and the winners will be randomly chosen then.
"It's been a very positive thing," said Mark McKinney, superintendent of Hesperia Unified School District. "When I go on campuses, this is a hot topic."
In the meantime, educators say, students are already reaping the rewards of the program.
"It's perfect attendance, not near-perfect, not almost made it — it's perfect attendance," McKinney said. "Kids, they learn better when they're in class."
UPDATE: As of Feb. 22, there are still 124 Hesperia High School, 91 Oak Hills High School and 47 Sultana High School students eligible to win a truck in the "It's a Gas to Go to Class" contest.
Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com.