Clayton Wilcox, the district superintendent, said that even as they work to keep students, those who drop out are warmly welcomed back.

“It’s not easy to drop out. We’re going to hound you. Classroom teachers are going to talk to you. Principals are going to talk to you. The guidance counselor is going to talk to you. We don’t make it easy,” Wilcox said.

Dixon, the intervention specialist who works with Burke, and Amy Warrenfeltz, another intervention specialist at South Hagerstown High, said some of the kids they deal with have mental health issues or drug and alcohol problems. Others struggle because they switched schools because of financial issues in their family or had a bad experience in school with a teacher or peer, they said.

Burke said it was hard to get motivated to attend class once he “got into the routine of not getting up and it became a habit.”

“I was nervous coming back because of what people would say or how people would look at me,” Burke said. “It’s awkward when you haven’t been to school in a couple weeks or whatever and then you come back.”

He had met with Dixon multiple times at his house and at school, and after he dropped out, he said he was sure she would return to his home. He said he was happy when she left the note because he wanted an excuse to return to school. He now goes to school full time and takes evening classes four nights a week. He anticipates graduating this spring and wants to attend technical school in heating, ventilation, and cooling.

“Before that, I wanted to come back, but I just didn’t know how to come about it,” Burke said.