Now that area school kids are back in school, a group of city, county, and school district officials are coming up with ways to keep them there.

  The Joint Truancy Committee is taking advantage of new state laws which allow early intervention to stop the roughly 340,000 students in public and charter schools in Bexar County going to class.

  State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) says it is a very cost effective solution to what will certainly turn into a bigger problem later on.

  "Kids being filed on for petty offenses will work into more serious criminal offenses that keep them in prison in a very costly way for decades," Villarreal aid.

  The program, as unveiled by San Antonio Chief Municipal Judge John Bull, would allow court sponsored 'intervention' with both the student and the parent after the child reaches a certain number of unexcused absences during the school year.  After the student reaches a threshold, now set at ten unexcused absences, criminal charges could be filed in municipal court against the child's parents, and the child, if the child is old enough.

  "Every single system we have worked up requires certain levels of court intervention and prevention prior to a case being filed," Bull said.

  A pilot program is currently in place in Holmes and Brandeis High Schools, and Brian Woods, the superintendent of the Northside ISD, says it is also opening up lines of communication.

  "As we started dedicating more resources to this we found that we were meeting with kids and families more readily than we had in the past, to address the concern," Woods said.

  Villarreal says the Bexar County group is coming up with plans which could be used statewide to fight the problem of truancy.

  "We really are doing work that is going to set a model for the rest of the state," he said.

  Bull said the goal is to break down the barriers between the county's 16 school districts, to essentially treat the entire county as one school district.  He says much of the work up until now has been to get the different districts to sign on to the county wide initiative.