Morgan Pohl, a third-grader at Doull Elementary in Denver, prepares to do a load of laundry at school. (Anne Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado)

By Anne Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

Smiling shyly, 9-year-old Morgan Pohl tossed a heap of clothes into the washer and carefully added detergent to the top of the machine. She hit the start button and headed off to lunch in the next room — the cafeteria at Doull Elementary School in southwest Denver.

Doing laundry at school is a weekly ritual for the pony-tailed third-grader, who changes her shirt five times a day at because she has a medical condition — polymicrogyria — that causes her to drool constantly.

“The self-confidence [from] having clean clothes really cannot be understated,” said Jo Carrigan, Doull’s principal. “When students feel good and feel proud, they’re here ready to learn, they’re not worried about … so-and-so just said my clothes smell like cigarettes.”

Washers and dryers are popping up in schools around the country these days, often borne out of educators’ hopes that free, convenient laundry facilities will help keep kids in school instead of at home out of embarrassment over dirty clothes. Like social workers charged with tracking down truant students or free bus passes to ease school commutes, it’s one more weapon in the battle against absenteeism, which has become a growing priority in many states, including Colorado.

There’s no official count of schools that offer students or families access to on-site laundry facilities — but at least a half-dozen in Colorado do. Five schools in the state, including Doull, received washers and dryers this year through a grant program run by the Whirlpool Corp.

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