Chicago schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard announced today the district's back-to-school efforts, which will involve other city agencies, social media and old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning.

District officials are calling the effort a grassroots campaign to organize community partners, retailers, volunteers and other agencies like libraries and parks to get the word out.

Track E, or early-start schools, begin Aug. 8. Regular schools start Sept. 6.

Last year the district saw an 89 percent attendance rate on the first day of classes. This year, district officials are not setting a specific target but hoping to score higher.

“It is vital that students start the school year with strong attendance,” Brizard said.

From his own experience as an educator, he talked of how kids who don’t attend the first day of school fall behind and become “fish out of water.”

The campaign includes back-to-school kits that CPS officials will hand out in community festivals in communities with high truancy rates--Englewood, Humboldt Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Woodlawn and Austin.

So far the district plans to distribute 6,000 kits, but they're seeking donations to distribute more of the $11 packets filled with notebooks, pencils, markers, erasers, glue, rulers and books.

On Wednesday, Brizard, Board of Education vice president Jesse Ruiz and local aldermen handed out kits to children at Harris Park, 6200 S. Drexel Blvd.

The mayor's office will help recruit volunteers to staff 3,000 phone bank slots calling parents about back-to-school dates, said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.”

Libraries and park districts will also send home two letters to students in their summer programs reminding them of the start dates. And 40 different retail chains across the city will hang posters in their stores and print school start dates on customer receipts.

Churches will also be reminding their congregations and posting announcements on their marquees.

nahmed@tribune.com