In Cumberland County, 4 to 8 percent of elementary students missed 18 or more days of school from 2010 to 2012, according to Spurwink Services of Portland. That translates to 850 students who missed 10 percent or more of the year in the past two years, according to Spurwink. The South Portland school district also is working to improve student attendance.

Chronic absences affect everyone in the class and can trigger further problems in middle and high school, according to the Maine Department of Education.

Daily attendance is key for school success, said Rachelle Tome, DOE's chief academic officer. When a young child misses 10 percent of the school year for any reason, it can leave the student unable to master reading by the end of the third grade, giving that child a higher risk of becoming a high school dropout, Tome said.