Local parents may now have a little extra help getting their children up for school due to a new attendance program that offers area students the chances to win a new car or computer.

Access Chevrolet and Access Ford of Calallen have committed to donating three vehicles to the Calallen, Robstown, and Tuloso-Midway school districts in an effort to improve attendance at their schools.

A $1,000 gift certificate for a new computer is also up for grabs at Calallen elementary and intermediate schools.

Access Chevrolet general manager Danny Jennings said at a recent Robstown school board meeting that the two dealerships wanted to expand a pilot program they offered in the spring at Tuloso-Midway schools.

The family of Tuloso-Midway Middle School sixth-grader Stephanie Dean won a 2007 Cobalt car for her attendance record after Stephanie's name was picked in a drawing at the conclusion of the T-M pilot program in May.

"You all are to be commended for that," school board member Adolfo Lopez said at the Sept. 20 Robstown school board meeting.

T-M was selected for the pilot program because the school district got its paperwork together quickly, Jennings said.

"If we can just get attendance up 1 or 2 percent, it means a lot of money for the district," Jennings told the Robstown school board.

The program went into effect Monday at Robstown schools. All Robstown students from kindergarten through the 12th grade are eligible to earn a ticket for the drawing for each week of perfect attendance. Entry tickets may not be purchased or sold.

To have perfect attendance, students must be in school the entire day.

If a student is absent or leaves school early for any reason, he or she will not receive a ticket that week, even if the absence is excused. Students participating in school-sponsored events or who are absent for a doctor's appointment will be considered present.

All decisions by faculty and administration regarding the issuance of tickets or opportunities to participate in the drawing are final.

A car will be given to the parents or legal guardians of the student chosen in the drawing at the end of the school year, provided the parents or guardians have proof of insurance and a valid Texas driver's license.

The Access dealerships at 3402 U.S. Highway 77 will also pay the sales taxes and licensing and title fees, Jennings said.

"I think it's a great idea," superintendent Roberto Garcia told the newspaper. "On behalf of the board of trustees and the community of Robstown, I express my sincere appreciation, gratitude and generosity to Access Chevy and Access Ford for caring about our community and our students."

The program went into effect July 24 at T-M schools. As in Robstown, all T-M kindergarten through 12th-grade students will earn a ticket for the drawing for each week of perfect attendance.

In addition, T-M hosts parties every six weeks with small prizes for students with perfect attendance.

"They are really focusing on attendance," said Jill Strzinek, Access Enterprises's school liaison. "We are really partnering with T-M about how we can let the community know that attendance is important."

The program began Aug. 27 at Calallen schools, with a slight twist.

Calallen students must have six consecutive weeks of perfect attendance to earn tickets for two different drawings at the end of the school year.

Calallen kindergarten through fifth-grade students will enter a drawing for a $1,000 gift certificate to Dell computers, while students from the sixth through 12th grades will earn tickets for the new car drawing.

Jennings said each of the car winners may choose between a Ford Focus, Ford Ranger pick-up, Chevrolet Aveo, Chevrolet Cobalt or Chevrolet Colorado.

All the vehicles have a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $16,000 or more. The vehicles also come with three-year, bumper-to-bumper warranties, and five-year powertrain warranties.

Each winner may select the vehicle of his or her choice, even if all three winners pick the same make and model, Jennings said.

Jennings said the goal is to improve attendance, enabling the school districts to reap more state and federal funds. He said he hopes the program will spark conversations about the importance of attendance between students, their families, teachers and the community at large.

"Being there and ready to go is a lifelong pattern that begins in school and transcends to the local workforce," he said.

The future of the program, Jennings said, hinges on its success at improving attendance.

"If it works out, if it makes a difference, if these schools can show that attendance is increasing and it matters, then we'll continue," he said.